3 Practical Tips for Preventing Nurse Practitioner Burnout

Two weeks in to 2016, we’ve all had sufficient time to forget that ‘fresh start’ feeling we had when we rang in the New Year. A late night brownie binge ruined my ‘no sugar for 30 days’ resolution in true chocaholic style. My low carb intentions similarly faced their demise over a steaming bowl full of mac n’ cheese after a stressful day at work. Our resolutions to destress, curb anxiety, and maintain positive attitudes are also likely suffering with the return of our daily routines. If you feel your goal of life balance and nurse practitioner career satisfaction slipping, get a plan in place to prevent burnout in the coming months. 

If you’re a nurse practitioner feeling the pressures of working in healthcare, there are a few practical ways you can maintain motivation and even enthusiasm for your career. 

1. Take Care of Yourself First

On a plane, flight attendants remind passengers to put on their own oxygen masks in an emergency before helping others. Without supplying yourself with the life-sustaining element, you lose your ability to care for others - everyone suffers. Similarly, as nurse practitioners we can’t care for our patients to the best of our ability without first caring for ourselves. 

Taking care of yourself isn’t easy, but it must, must, must(!), be a priority if you hope to prevent burnout in your nurse practitioner career. Like oxygen, sleeping, eating and a little downtime are essential to life. Make social plans, schedule alone time, get a hobby, exercise, cook…make time for the things in life that help you reenergize and refuel (Hint: driving your kids to soccer practice is not one of these things). Identify the area where you are weakest in self care and make a measurable plan to improve.

2. Get a Coping Strategy in Place 

Maintaining a constant self-awareness is essential to nurse practitioners preventing burnout. Evaluate how you feel about your job at the end of each day. What went well? What went poorly? Are you experiencing signs of frustration, stress, or a generally negative disposition towards your job in general? If so, have a plan to let off some steam. 

For some nurse practitioners, dishing with a friend helps de-stress. For others, sweating away a bad day on a run or taking time for calm in a yoga class helps them recenter. Don’t ignore bad days and minor stressors until they build up to burnout. Cope with the stressors of life as a nurse practitioner as soon as you identify them to keep things in check. 

3. Surround Yourself with Positive People

You may have little control of the culture in your practice. If you find yourself surrounded by complaints and negative attitudes at work, prioritize spending time with positive people outside of work. Bad attitudes fuel the burnout fire preventing you from recharging outside of the clinic or hospital. 

4. Improve Your Leadership Skills

As a nurse practitioner you’re a leader. Like it or not, part of your job is giving orders. You order imaging studies, lab tests and medications. You likely have nurses or medical assistants reporting directly to you. Even if managing these coworkers isn’t listed in your job description, it is an inevitable part of life as an NP. The benefit of such management responsibilities? You are a leader and have an impact on the attitude and performance of your team. 

Most of us don’t learn leadership or management skills in our nurse practitioner program. Mastering these skills, however, can transform the culture of our workplaces. Attend a medical practice management conference with the intention of becoming a more effective, positive leader. 

5. Take Control of Your Schedule

On-call responsibilities, erratic evening and weekend schedules, and long shifts wear on many nurse practitioners ultimately driving them to burnout. Work-life balance requires that you take control of your schedule. For NPs working in specialties where intense schedules are required, this may mean hiring help when it comes to keeping things in order at home. Other NPs may consider transitioning to part-time or PRN opportunities to maintain a manageable workload. Nurse practitioners enjoy a wide variety of scheduling options - use this to your advantage. 

How do you prevent burnout as a nurse practitioner?

 

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