Nurse burnout

3 Tips for How to Handle Nursing Burnout

Remember the simpler times of nursing, when burnout stemmed from working too many overtime shifts in exchange for bonus pay (or just time and half)? If you became a nurse in recent years, it may be difficult to imagine a time when nurses chose to work that much for far less pay than current trends — or how someone could stay in this profession from new grad to retirement. 

With the nonstop influx of patients and the emotional toll of the pandemic, nurses seem to be burning out earlier in their careers than ever before. Nursing burnout is difficult to face head-on, but it’s an important consideration so that you can stay in the profession you worked so hard to join.

1. Notice How You’re Feeling

Before addressing your nursing rut, determine whether you’re experiencing pre-shift anxiety or burnout. To do this, notice your thought patterns. Are you dreading going into work because you’re anticipating a crappy assignment or because you’re feeling exhausted and depleted? 

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” According to the WHO, a nurse with burnout may exhibit “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” 

If this description resonates with you, remember that it’s okay to feel apathetic or cynical — sometimes, it’s the only way to cope with the heavy situations that nurses endure. However, if your mental state begins to affect patient care, it may be time to proactively address your burnout. 

2. Find Coping Mechanisms That Work for You 


According to the 2021 Vivian Health State of Healthcare Workforce survey, over 40% of nurses were considering leaving the industry. The ANA also ran its Mental Health and Wellness Survey in September of 2021 and reported that 75% of nurses feel stressed, 67% are exhausted, and 62% felt overwhelmed. Before looking for another job, consider finding a coping mechanism for burnout that works with your lifestyle. 

The ANA offers several well-being tools and resources for nurses experiencing burnout — from grief support groups to call-in “safe space” lines. While speaking to a therapist or joining a support group are great ways to manage burnout, other coping mechanisms can include:

  • Practicing gratitude
  • Improving sleep hygiene 
  • Journaling
  • Yoga

It’s important to find strategies to help you manage stress both at work and on your days off. By incorporating a mindfulness practice into your free time at home, you will be more equipped to get through those stressful moments at work. You may find that a quick breathing exercise is more effective for combating overwhelm than a med-room-and-cry session when you have patients to see. 

3. Make a Change 

If you’re dealing with burnout, you know in your gut that it’s time to make a change — whether it’s drastic or small is up to you. Just like every nurse’s career journey is unique, nurse burnout looks different for everyone. Focus on making changes based on what works for you. 

A simple way to create positive change is to switch up your routine to have something to look forward to. This might mean listening to a new podcast on your way to work or taking a different route on the way home. The change could even be finally taking PTO and going on your dream trip, despite your manager’s pleas to hold off for the sake of staffing. It’s your time, take it.

Once you have incorporated some wellness strategies and shifts into your personal life, you may need to change your actual work setting. Here are a few adjustments that can help mitigate nurse burnout:

  • Switch from days to nights for a change of pace
  • Change specialties or transfer to a new unit
  • Change to another hospital in your area 
  • Become a travel nurse

If you decide it’s time to leave the bedside altogether, remember that this doesn’t mean you’re turning your back on patients. There are plenty of nontraditional nursing roles that allow you to impact patients and their families without enduring the physical and mental exhaustion you’re experiencing now. Whichever change you decide to make, be proud that you’re working as a nurse during these difficult times and are mindful enough to handle the challenges that come with it.

Alexa Davidson

Alexa is a registered nurse and freelance health writer. She began her nursing career in adult surgical trauma then spent 10 years in neonatal and pediatric cardiac intensive care units before working as a travel nurse. After earning a master’s in nursing education, Alexa began teaching associate degree nursing students. Alexa is focused on writing approachable content that empowers women to take control of their reproductive health. Her work is featured on blogs including the Inito fertility app, S’moo hormone balance supplements and various healthcare facilities. Visit to learn more about the population Alexa is serving as a nurse writer.

Comments (2)

Thanks for your words here. You kept it simple and concise. We need more of that, as too many people think the answer is more words. Be well,
Larry, PT


I enjoyed and needed this article . Thank you!


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