Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career, but it is a mentally, emotionally and physically taxing one, too. Effective coping strategies are important to manage the stressors and prevent nurse burnout.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are experiencing widespread staffing shortages partly due to the growing number of retiring nurses and admissions caps in nursing degree programs. Emerging and unprecedented issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic and an aging Baby Boomer population requiring more complex care of multiple comorbidities, have strained the system and nurses further.

Burnout has serious detrimental effects on the health of an individual and an organization, including depression, job dissatisfaction, negative patient outcomes and staffing turnover. Nurses should be aware of their risk for developing burnout. Adopting strategies — like those listed below — can help them prevent and manage it successfully.

Use the Buddy System

When it feels like you are the only one going through something, it is difficult to see past your current struggles or predicament. Simply being able to vent and talk through the challenges of the day with someone who has had similar experiences is an effective stressbuster. You can connect with a nursing colleague in several places — at work, through social media and online nursing forums, or even with classmates from an RN to BSN program.

Find a Hobby

If you find yourself becoming preoccupied with work to the extent that it spills over into your personal life, you need to figure out a way to clear your mind and create better work-life boundaries. Finding a hobby that fuels you provides a much-needed mental break and a more defined plan for your downtime. Whether it is yoga, building model airplanes or cooking, participating in a hobby has the potential to improve your mental and physical health as well as your work performance.

Commit to a Self-Care Routine

There really is no substitute for adequate self-care. It is so vitally important that ANA’s Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements requires a commitment to the “promotion of personal health, safety and well-being.” Choosing fresh and healthful foods, getting adequate sleep, tending to spiritual or religious needs, spending time with friends and family, and moving and meditating each day provide critical support for your mind and body. If establishing an entire routine seems overwhelming, try incorporating a few five-minute breaks into your day. Use this time to do something restorative, such as perform deep breathing exercises, journal or watch a funny video.

Participate in Employer Programs

Because burnout is such a prevalent issue, many employers offer related programs and integrated support services for nurses. These often include mental health counseling through an employee assistance program (EAP) or another initiative unique to your workplace. An example of the latter is the 45-second pause, where nurses take a little time to process a patient’s death or other stressful event. Resilience in Stressful Events (RISE) teams help staff process traumatic workplace events through debriefing.

Restore Your Passion

If you have been in nursing for a while, it is possible that you have lost some of the passion that first ignited your interest in the profession. Alternatively, your interests may have shifted. Do a gut check now and then about what is going well, what is not and how your career matches your vision. Then, make a plan to get back on track and restore your passion. You may decide to pursue higher education so you can seek a promotion. You may find that simply changing shifts or joining a workplace committee is the best solution.

Nurses have a duty to care for and promote health among patients as well as themselves. By incorporating targeted strategies and seeking support, nurses can prevent burnout and its undesirable consequences.

Learn more about the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s online RN to BSN program.


American Counseling Association: Identifying and Overcoming Burnout: Essential Practices for Counselors

American Nurses Association: Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements

CNBC: 3 Science-Backed Reasons Having a Hobby Will Help Your Career

Nurses on Boards Coalition: A Gold Bond to Restore Joy to Nursing: A Collaborative Exchange of Ideas to Address Burnout Nurse Burnout