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How to deal with nurse burnout

We live in fast times.

It’s a time when hospitals are understaffed, performance is increasingly driven by corporate metrics, and national healthcare policy complicates the efficacy of medical systems and medical professionals    taking a toll on their own health.

A 2017 survey that gathered data from over 18,000 nurses living in the US found that, besides retirement,  job dissatisfaction and nurse/patient ratios were the key reasons why nurses were leaving the industry. Nurse burnout is nothing new, but formal attempts to address and remedy it have been less than satisfactory, leaving nurses to take their emotional, physical and psychological well-being into their own hands.

But how does one do that? Here at Soothing Scents, we came up with an idea that made nurses’ jobs easier. We did this by creating a product that helped nurses to decrease patient distress quickly, leading to happier patients and lighter workloads for nurses.

And we didn’t stop there. We developed STILL, an effective and immediate relief aid to help nurses manage the stress of their everyday responsibilities.

But how else can nurses find sanity? Through boundaries, breaks, and camaraderie, mostly.

1. Boundaries

Health care is an exceptionally difficult industry to say ‘no’ in. As medical professionals, we’re obligated to do whatever we can to save lives and ensure the safety of the people that have entrusted us with their care, and that often means overcommitting time and energy you need for yourself.

But when can, you need to learn to establish boundaries and be able to say “I can’t”, or at least be able to negotiate the degree of involvement, particularly in cases where your own fatigue and stress might jeopardize the safety of a patient.

“If negotiation is an option, be clear with your terms,” Rozzette Cabrera, RN, wrote in an article for Nurselabs. “In case you can’t agree to do a full shift, for example, offer to cover your co-worker’s shift for a couple of hours. You can also help him find someone else who’ll be able to grant his request or state what you can do for your co-worker instead.”

Saying ‘no’ is critical not only to your health, but to maintain a quality of performance and safety that is necessary for the medical field  (even if it means pointing this out to a colleague or manager who is trying to put additional pressure on you).

Another important boundary is learning how to protect yourself from toxic colleagues. While this is a complex subject, our founder Wendy Nichols recommends reading Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg to help navigate difficult professional interactions. She also stresses it’s important to educate yourself about workplace policies and federal labor laws that can protect you from hostile work environments.

2. Breaks

Breaks are everything. Long periods of work cannot be productive nor sustained without time to reset and relax, and anyone who tells you that they can work longer than 10 hours at optimum performance is just fooling themselves). Thanks to a new uptick in nap culture (and the changing stigma of taking breaks at work), there’s enough research to suggest that 15-20 minutes of downtime throughout the day does indeed boost focus. Make sure you schedule in time to take care of yourself every day (physically and emotionally), don’t go for more than a couple of hours without tapping out and giving yourself a break, and guard that right wholeheartedly.

3. Comraderie

One of the most important resources a nurse can have is other nurses. Building a network and professional support system will not only be able to help you manage the physical day-to-day demands of the job, but also the psychological ones. “For nurses, it’s especially important to have contacts in the field for support,” writes the team at the College of Saint Scholastica. “While family members and friends can provide invaluable insight and sympathy, nothing can quite compare to the solidarity of exchanging notes, frustrations and victories with other nurses.”

Whatever you do, suffering in silence is only going to lead to exhaustion. Enlist a small group of nurses you can confide in, and make sure that group involves both more experienced (and wiser) nurses, and nurses that do not work with you directly — sometimes a little distance can give you the perspective and advice you need.

STILL stress relief inhaler contains the calming properties of bergamot, ylang-ylang, sweet orange and lavender essential oils to help you prevent burnout. Keep one in your pocket. Open, inhale, feel soothed. Repeat.

You can order it from our website in either individual or medipack form (available to RNs).

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