Thursday 10 February 2022

Nursing Career, Nursing Job, Nursing News, Nursing Certification, Nursing Responsibilities, Nursing Skill

When I was burned out in 2014, the thing that made the biggest difference was not what you’d think. It was not the yoga classes, the journaling, or the empowering quotes. It was the connection with others. Support from people that I worked with or the dear friends who could see that something was off and checked in on me. I’ll honestly never forget it. 

Burnout took me by surprise. I knew I had lost that spark. I was crying more, and I felt more resentful with each passing day. But I just kept going. I felt guilty for feeling that way. I felt stuck and so lost. I was new and I didn’t want to say anything to appear weak, like I couldn’t handle it, and wanted to be a reliable good nurse. Little did I know I was setting myself on fire to keep other people warm and it would soon catch up with me. 

When people around me started to check in on me a couple of things happened: 

◉ I felt loved and valued

◉ I got clarity on what I was really feeling

◉ I realized that what I was dealing with was unsustainable

◉ I needed to take action

My environment wasn’t changing for me, but instead, I had control over how I reacted to it, how I set boundaries, and how I treated myself. Through my conversations with the people that cared enough to check-in, I felt validated and supported. This empowered me to take the actions I needed to move forward. Actions that didn’t make me any less of a nurse or human being.   

Now, I know it may feel hard to check on others when maybe you are feeling burnout yourself.  Maybe you get through each day by the skin of your teeth and feel like you are in survival mode 24/7. But if we all took just a few minutes here and there to do a little survey of those around us, and took one action (even just a small one) to check in on each other it could make a huge difference for the individuals involved. Even more, it could help shift the nursing culture to one of unwavering respect, kindness, and solidarity.  

Here are 4 tips to approach a colleague you think is overwhelmed, suffering from burnout, moral injury, or trauma…or maybe they just don’t seem themselves:  


Focus on support instead of sharing what you would do unless they specifically ask you. Connect with them, check-in, and ask questions like, "Do you want to talk about it?" then practice active listening. Offering your opinion could overwhelm them more and may make things worse.  Let them guide the conversation.


Rather than ask, "What can I do to help?" which may just overwhelm them more (hello, decision fatigue!), offer something specific.  For example, “Hey I am going to be grabbing lunch. Can I get you something?" or “Hey things are a little slow for me right now, can I do _____ for you?” Even if that means getting them a snack or some water.  


Sometimes it's uncomfortable when people are sad or mad, but let them feel it. Avoid saying things like "It could be worse" or "Let’s just focus on the positive." Validating their emotions helps them move through them. If their emotions are too great for you or are triggering you, communicate that you would love to support them and choose a time to meet up with them that feels good to you. 


If you have a conversation with someone who is struggling, loop back with them and keep your conversation with them private. Don’t engage in gossip. Encourage them to seek additional support if it seems needed. Avoid unsolicited advice unless they ask you for your opinion or you ask for permission to offer it.  


It can be hard to put yourself out there and check in on others. Their emotions may be overwhelming to you at times and sometimes our own discomfort may cause us to say things to try and fix the situation or help minimize the other person’s anguish. We are healers after all. But be careful about what you say especially if it appears to minimize how someone is feeling.  Here are a few examples of what not to say: 

◉ “Wow, that sounds awful but something way worse happened to me last week so it could be worse!”

◉ “I wouldn’t worry about it. Seriously just move on”

◉ “I wouldn't get this upset about it. Just be positive!” 

◉ “This really isn't worth you getting this upset about it”

◉ “I wouldn’t say anything, it will probably just make it worse”

◉ “Do you think maybe you are overreacting?”

◉ “Good vibes only!!”

Nursing Career, Nursing Job, Nursing News, Nursing Certification, Nursing Responsibilities, Nursing Skill

We are navigating rough waters but we are always stronger together. Small acts of kindness can ignite massive changes to the environments we work in. You never know the impact you may have on someone who is struggling. We aren’t meant to do life or nursing alone and I challenge you this week to take a look around and try one of the tools above. 



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