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Burnout and The Nursing Student

Stacey E. Haught



Scared Kid Looking At Nurse Physician With Syringe

What is Burnout?

We’ve all heard it, ‘watch out for signs of burnout.’ but really we don’t know what it is exactly. A lot of us feel like we have no real right or reason to be burnt out still being in school earning our degrees but in actuality. Nursing Students are in the highest statistic for burnout among their peers. 

Burnout is unique, it’s not just fatigue or a state of physical exhaustion, it’s a special type of work-related stress, it’s a combination of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that also involves some sense of reduced accomplishment, and loss of personal identity. According to the Mayo Clinic.

Burnout in of itself isn’t singular or one-sided it’s multi-faceted and sometimes doesn’t have one situation or cause, but can be because of so many different circumstances all combined on top of one another. 

The Five Stages of Burnout and the Nursing Student. 

With 6.0% of Nursing Students reporting Burnout at some point in their education we have to wonder if at some point in time of their educational career if we would have seen the signs of Burnout earlier would it have impeded the burnout altogether. 

So what are the Five Stages of Burnout?

  1. Honeymoon Phase – You take on that new job, or in this case, you start that new career starting the educational program and you’re excited and want to impress everyone. You’re highly productive if not over productive, you overcommit, you’re full of enthusiasm you feel creative and optimistic. 
  2. The onset of Stress – The newness of your new environment wears off and you start noticing that some days not all of them are super stressful, more stressful than they should be and your boundaries of personal time blur between your studying and your school become the most important thing in your life. 
  3. Chronic Stress – Your relationship with stress becomes frequent and familiar and you emerge into this new phase with this new phase comes less productivity and problem-solving skills and your performance as school decreases, self-doubt breeches your mind, and your start feeling inferior. Chronic stress takes a toll on your mental and physical health, and only intensifies the stages that come prior to this stage. 
  4. Burnout – Without addressing the stages before, you’ve arrived at Burnout, the symptoms in of themselves can cause extreme fatigue and exhaustion, that will make finishing assignments seem impossible, and the demands outside of your school workload will just seem like a mountain you won’t be able to climb let alone even want to approach. The physical symptoms may add on and further intensify in addition to the mental exhaustion, chronic headaches, and digestive issues have been reported. 
  5. Habitual Burnout – This last Burnout Stage is when you don’t learn the skills to cope with the burnout and accept the stress as a part of what it must mean to be a Nursing Student. In this ever-evolving wheel of symptoms and stages, you may attempt to bring yourself out of it, without success, as it continuously affects your school career and impending career. The overwhelming feelings of sadness, fatigue, and exhaustion left in this loop cycle could result in you having a loss of love for the career and school you love so much. 

Combatting Burnout as a Nursing Student. 

With physical burnout only being a small portion of Burnout in Nursing Students it’s important to note that it’s not the only kind of Burnout that Nursing Students can and will encounter.

When a pocket of nursing was surveyed over 36% of them presented high emotional burnout and over 37% presented high depersonalization and over 28% of them presented reduced personal accomplishments, and only 33.1% had no change.

With the ever-present demands on Nurses and Nursing Students alike we can ascertain that the burnout rate in this occupation will only increase. 

So how does one who encounters burnout combats it in a healthy, and effective way? First of all, we need to spot the signs of burnout.

  1. Start asking yourself critical questions. Like – Have you become cynical or over-critical at school? Or in your workplace? 
  2. Do you drag yourself into classes? Or have a hard time getting started on your daily tasks?
  3. Have you become irritable? Impatient? Or easier to grow frustrated?
  4. Do you lack the energy to be productive? Creative? Or they want to do so?
  5. Do you find it hard to concentrate during class?
  6. Do you lack feeling satisfied in your accomplishments in class or completing tasks?
  7. Do you feel like you’ve lost the spark to want to complete school?
  8. Are you reaching for recreational supplementation more than before?
  9. Have your sleep patterns changed?
  10.  Unexplained headaches, distressed stomach, and other physical complaints?

Not all of these are defined under the parameters of burnout for a Nursing Student but they’re a good indicator and guide to ask yourself questions and keep yourself accountable. So what should you do if you’re feeling burnt-out?

  1. Evaluate your Options –  Discuss with your instructors, and trusted people in your life your feelings, and go over options that might be available to you.
  2. Seek Support – Whether you reach out to your fellow classmates, or to friends and loved ones, find people who you trust and can help you cope. 
  3. Try a Relaxing Activity – Whether you’re picking up a book, sitting down to watch a movie, or binge-watching Netflix’s new TV show if it relaxes you, take time and do it. Turn your phone off, set aside those textbooks, and just relax.
  4. Get some Excercise – Regular physical activity according to The Mayo Clinic can help you better deal with stress, even if it’s just thirty minutes of Yoga.
  5. Get some Sleep – Sleep restores your well-being and helps reset your internal clock, and helps protect not only your mind but your immune system. 
  6. Mindfulness – It’s the act of focusing on your breath, and flow, being intently aware of what is going on around you, and your senses and feeling at every moment, without your judgment.  

Overcoming Burnout is Personally sitting Back in The Drivers Seat. 

In any self-help article, you’ll read you’ll discover many strategies, theories, and advice for someone who’s experiencing burnout but in actuality, the best way to overcome it all is by removing burnout from the driver’s seat and you regaining control of your stress. In whatever means that might be. The action of regaining control has to be purposeful and consistent. 

So if you are either in the middle of burnout or sitting at the beginning phases of the monster that is Nursing School Burnout perhaps consider now creating healthy habits for yourself.

You deserve it and are worthy of being able to experience all the healthy things in the next few semesters that include a healthy dose of stress. 

Stacey E. Haught is an experienced acting coach spending over a decade molding young minds and future stars. She's an accomplished author, mentor, and novelist with a knack for crafting compelling stories. Stacey has been a pivotal component of developing and launching an independent digital magazine, networking, and interviewing key members of the local community. Stacey is a family woman and finds time to balance her home life and her writing career. In her free time, Stacey is an avid reader! Ping her on Instagram and see what’s she’s currently reading!

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