Nurse practitioner burnout related to the modern healthcare system

I’m a co-crier.

When someone else is crying, I start crying. It doesn’t matter if it is in real life or when watching a movie, i.e. The Notebook! I am a co-crier when it comes to patients as well. If a patient starts crying when recalling the loss of a loved one, a family member who is terminally ill, or a loss of function due to chronic illness, I will start crying with them. I have a strong sense of empathy and I believe empathy is a nurse practitioner super power.

Nurse practitioners see the patient as a whole.

We understand how the social determinants of health interfere with a treatment plan. We know the feelings associated with a chronic disease and the limitations that will prevail. We want to spend the extra time getting to know our patients and building trust. We care for the whole patient and develop a care plan tailored to that specific patient.

It seems the modern healthcare system is everything BUT caring for the patient. Nurse practitioners are required to see more patients, in a shorter amount of time. We develop a treatment plan based on which intervention insurance will cover. We fall short with teaching our patients nonpharmacological treatments because there is no time (in our already jam packed schedule) for motivational interviewing. Our time is consumed by documentation, prior authorizations, figuring out which medication the insurance company will cover, and doing everything BUT caring for the patient. There is no longer the time to treat the patient as a whole. This is beyond frustrating.

I think one of the reasons nurse practitioners get burned-out is because we long to have that emotional connection with our patients. We want to get to know them as a person. We want to treat the patient as a whole. We want the extra time to educate and empower our patients. We want to show empathy. We want to cry with our patients.

This lack of connection leaves us feeling helpless, unfilled, and burned-out.

While the modern healthcare system is not going to change anytime soon, there are a few things nurse practitioners can remember. Although most of your day will be filled with the mundane, documentation and jumping through insurance loopholes, work on connecting with at least one patient a day. Take some time to reflect on the actual face-to-face interactions you get to have with your patients, even if it is behind a mask. Remember the times you expressed empathy and understanding when a patient needed it most. Revisit the purpose of why you went into nursing. As a nurse practitioner, you have impacted more lives than you will ever realize.

Healthcare needs APRNs to continue treating the patient as a whole.

Erica D the NP is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed APRNs create work-life balance, conquer burnout, and advocate for themselves. The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner offers online courses, coaching, and support. Learn more at

For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at

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