Nurse Fatigue Triage: Resources & Tips for When You’re Tired of Nursing

by | May 7, 2024 | Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

Nursing, with its demanding schedules, emotional exhaustion, and high-pressure situations, can often leave nurses feeling drained and fatigued. The persistent grind of the profession can lead to burnout and a sense of disillusionment, making it difficult for nurses to find fulfillment in their careers.

Nurses are constantly afraid of fatigue-related errors due to extended shifts, extra shifts, night shifts, and not obtaining sufficient sleep. Be aware of warning signs of chronic fatigue, as it is a common problem, and it harms nurses’ well-being and has negative implications for patient safety. 

However, amidst the exhaustion and challenges, there exists a path to rejuvenation and a renewed passion for the nursing profession. In this article, we will explore strategies and resources designed to help navigate feelings of nurse fatigue and reignite your enthusiasm for your vital role in healthcare. From practical tips for self-care to professional development opportunities, let’s embark on a journey to rediscover the joy and purpose of nursing.

nurse fatigue triage: resources for when you are tired of nursing

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Ten Tips for Nurses Who Are Tired of Nursing

Feeling burnt out or tired of nursing can be challenging, but there are ways to reignite your passion and find fulfillment again. Here are ten tips for nurses who are feeling tired of their careers.

1. Explore Different Specialties

If you’re feeling tired or thinking about leaving bedside nursing, exploring different specialties can breathe new life into your career and reignite your passion for patient care. Here are some diverse areas within nursing that you might consider transitioning to:

  1. Cardiac Nursing: In this specialty, you’ll work closely with patients who have heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, or those recovering from cardiac surgeries. Cardiac nurses play a crucial role in monitoring patients’ cardiac health, administering medications, and providing education on lifestyle modifications to promote heart health.
    • I have many articles regarding this specialty, for those of you interested in this area of work, you can start by first reading: How to Become a Cardiac Nurse
  2. Neurological Nursing: Neuro nurses care for patients with neurological disorders, such as stroke, epilepsy, or traumatic brain injuries. They assist with neurological assessments, manage symptoms like seizures or paralysis, and support patients and families in coping with the challenges of neurological conditions.
  3. Orthopedic Nursing: Ortho nurses specialize in caring for patients with musculoskeletal disorders, such as fractures, joint replacements, or spinal injuries. They play a key role in postoperative care, rehabilitation, and educating patients on mobility aids and exercises to promote recovery and prevent complications. To learn more about this job, read my post here. Also, if you want to learn how to become an orthopedic nurse, read my other post about it. 
  4. Nursing Informatics: Nursing informatics blends nursing science with information technology to optimize healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. Nurses in this specialty work on electronic health record systems, data analysis, and implementing technology solutions to enhance clinical workflows and improve patient care quality and safety. Explore this job more in-depth with my article about it. 
  5. Surgical Services/ Perioperative Nurses:
  • Preop Nurse: Preoperative nurses play a crucial role in preparing patients for surgery. They start IVs, conduct preoperative assessments, obtain patients’ medical histories, ensure that all necessary preoperative tests and procedures are completed, and provide education and emotional support to patients and their families. Preoperative nurses also collaborate with the surgical team to verify patient information, confirm surgical consent, and ensure that the operating room is properly equipped and ready for the procedure.
  • OR Nurse: Intraoperative nurses, also known as perioperative nurses or circulating nurses, are responsible for coordinating and managing the activities within the operating room during surgery. They assist the surgical team by preparing and organizing surgical instruments and equipment, maintaining a sterile environment, and anticipating the needs of the surgical team throughout the procedure. Intraoperative nurses also advocate for patient safety and comfort during surgery, monitor vital signs, and communicate important information between the surgical team and other healthcare providers.
  • Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse: PACU nurses specialize in caring for patients immediately after surgery while they recover from anesthesia. In the PACU, nurses closely monitor patients’ vital signs, assess their level of consciousness and pain, and manage postoperative complications such as nausea, vomiting, or respiratory distress. PACU nurses ensure that patients are stable and comfortable before they are transferred to a hospital room or discharged home. They also provide postoperative education to patients and their caregivers, including instructions for pain management, wound care, and activity restrictions.

To learn more in-depth about what perioperative nurses do, read my article about it.

By transitioning to a new nursing specialty, you can discover fresh perspectives, engage in varied clinical experiences, and find renewed passion and fulfillment in your career. Take the time to research and shadow nurses in different specialties to determine which one aligns best with your interests, skills, and career goals.

2. Pursue Further Education

Furthering your education can open new doors within healthcare, such as advanced practice roles, education, or administration, which might offer the change you’re looking for. 

These avenues not only broaden your skill set but also present the prospect of meaningful change and advancement in your career trajectory. Whether you aspire to deliver specialized patient care, impart knowledge to future generations of healthcare professionals, or take on leadership responsibilities within healthcare organizations, further education serves as a catalyst for realizing your aspirations and making a tangible impact in the field.

For insights into this enriching process, feel free to explore my series of posts titled “My MSN Journey,” which chronicle my personal experiences and discoveries while pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

3. Seek a Mentor

Benefits of a mentor for combating fatigue:

  • Stress Management: A mentor can share personal strategies for managing stress and maintaining energy levels during long shifts.
  • Work-Life Balance: A mentor can offer guidance on creating boundaries, scheduling self-care, and navigating demanding workloads.
  • Perspective and Support: A mentor can provide a safe space to vent frustrations and offer a supportive, encouraging voice. They can also help you see challenges from a different perspective, reminding you of the purpose and rewards of your work.
  • Career Development: A mentor can help you identify areas for growth within your current role or explore new career paths within nursing that might be more fulfilling and less demanding.

Finding the right mentor:

  • Look Within Your Workplace: Consider experienced nurses you admire for their resilience and work ethic.
  • Professional Organizations: Many nursing associations offer mentorship programs.
    Online communities: Connect with nurses on online forums or social media groups.

4. Focus on Self-Care

Nurse burnout is real. Prioritize your physical and mental health through regular exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness practices, and hobbies outside of work. 

I have recently interviewed Dr. Kate King, an associate professor in the clinical psychology doctoral program at William James College. She has worked and trained in a variety of medical and mental healthcare settings.

Along the way, she has collaborated with all kinds of helping professionals – doctors, nurses, and social workers, to name a few. Dr. King has trained countless helpers to better care for their own well-being over the years as a speaker, educator, and workshop leader.

According to Dr. King, burnout isn’t just a feeling of tiredness. Burnout manifests in different ways, such as becoming snarky, cynical, complaining, and shutting down when others suggest taking action to correct an issue.

Insights From the Interview

The good news: burnout isn’t inevitable. By prioritizing self-care, you can build resilience and maintain a fulfilling nursing career. Here’s why self-care is more than bubble baths and how to make it work for you:

  • Beyond Balance: Forget the myth of perfect work-life balance. Self-care is about self-compassion. It’s about treating yourself with kindness, examining your reactions to stress, and assigning healthy meaning to situations. Cultivate a compassionate inner voice that supports you, not criticizes you.
  • Ditch the Willpower Myth: “Just power through it” won’t work. This approach undermines your own well-being.
  • Proactive, Not Reactive: Burnout doesn’t have to happen to you. Nursing students and new grads, take note! You can be proactive in preventing it. The intense nature of nursing makes self-care even more critical.
  • Unlearn Perfectionism: The belief that “If I’m not perfect, people die” is a recipe for burnout. Perfectionism is self-defeating. Learn from mistakes and let go of excessive self-criticism instilled in nursing school. Providing excellent care doesn’t mean being perfect.
    • New nurses especially struggle to find a balance – how can you provide excellent care without the crippling pressure to be perfect? The key is to explore the root of your need for perfection. Her book offers guidance on this journey.
  • The Journey of Self-Awareness: This is a continuous process, not a quick fix. Inner work, self-awareness, and intentional action are key.

You can learn more about her and purchase her book, The Well Helper at thewellhelper.com

Also, regarding self-help methods for understanding and addressing compassion fatigue, you can read my article named Anticipating Compassion Fatigue in Pandemic-Weary Nurses.

5. Volunteer

While fatigue can make it tempting to withdraw from activities outside of work, volunteering, within or outside the health field can be a surprisingly effective way to combat it. Here’s how:

  • Sense of Purpose: Volunteering for a cause you care about, whether it’s animal welfare, environmental protection, or supporting underprivileged communities, reconnects you with your values and reminds you of the positive impact you can have beyond the hospital walls. This renewed sense of purpose can translate into increased energy and motivation that carries over to your nursing practice.
  • Social Connection and Community: Volunteering provides an opportunity to interact with new people, build social connections, and feel part of a supportive community. This can be particularly beneficial for nurses working long hours or night shifts, as it fosters a sense of belonging outside of the hospital environment.
  • Mastery and Accomplishment: Volunteering allows you to utilize your skills and knowledge in a different setting. Whether it’s teaching first aid to a youth group, organizing a health fair in your community, or simply providing companionship to those in need, you’ll experience feelings of mastery and accomplishment from making a tangible difference. 
  • Stress Relief and Mental Respite: A change of scenery can do wonders for mental well-being.  Immersing yourself in a different environment and focusing on a new cause can be a form of mental respite, allowing you to return to work feeling recharged and de-stressed.
  • Perspective Shift: Volunteering exposes you to different life experiences and challenges. Witnessing the strength and resilience of others can offer a fresh perspective on your own struggles with fatigue.

6. Join Professional Nursing Organizations

 Being part of a nursing organization can provide the following benefits:

  • Combat Fatigue: Membership offers resources to fight fatigue through networking (finding support), development (renewing passion), advocacy (improved work conditions), and community (reducing isolation).
  • Networking & Development: Connect with colleagues, access discounted education, and potentially earn certifications.
  • Advocacy & Support: Organizations fight for better working conditions and offer support services like legal consultations or mental health resources.
  • Community: Feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie with nurses who understand your challenges.

7. Practice Mindfulness and Stress Management

Regularly engaging in mindfulness practices and stress management techniques can improve your resilience and overall outlook on your career and life. Spend adequate quality time with yourself. 

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises cultivate present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of your thoughts and feelings. This allows you to detach from negative thought patterns that can contribute to fatigue and negativity. By focusing on the present moment, you can better manage stress in the here and now, preventing it from accumulating and leading to burnout.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Practices like progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and spending time in nature can equip you with tools to actively release tension and calm your nervous system.

8. Seek Professional Help

Persistent fatigue and dissatisfaction might signal deeper issues like burnout or depression. Let’s create a culture of safety. Mental health professionals can diagnose the cause, create a personalized treatment plan (therapy, medication, or both), and offer support for recovery.

Seeking help is a sign of strength and allows you to prioritize your well-being for continued patient care and a renewed passion for nursing.

9. Connect with Colleagues

Foster supportive relationships with your fellow nurses and healthcare team members. Sharing experiences, challenges, and successes with colleagues can provide a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, helping to alleviate feelings of isolation and burnout.

Collaborating and building a strong professional network within your workplace can reignite your passion for nursing through shared goals and collective encouragement.

10. Attend Conferences and Workshops

Nurse fatigue can sometimes stem from a feeling of stagnation. Conferences and workshops offer a powerful antidote by exposing you to a fresh injection of knowledge and inspiration. Here’s how these events can benefit you:

  • Reignite Your Passion: Learning about new advancements, best practices, and innovative approaches in healthcare can reignite your passion for nursing. These events remind you of the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the profession, sparking intellectual curiosity and a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Sharpen Your Skills: Workshops often provide hands-on learning opportunities that allow you to develop new skills or refine existing ones. This can boost your confidence and make you feel more prepared to tackle challenges in your daily practice.
  • Network with Colleagues: Conferences and workshops offer valuable opportunities to connect with colleagues from various healthcare settings. Sharing experiences and exchanging ideas with like-minded professionals can foster a sense of community and combat feelings of isolation.

If you’re not feeling burnout just yet, but think you are approaching this, listen to my podcast episode: ‘Proactively Preventing Nurse Burnout‘ to learn more about this issue, the signs of burnout, and the effects of fatigue. 

Remember, burnout in nursing is a sign that something needs to change. It’s okay to seek a shift in your career path or to find new ways to infuse your current role with meaning and joy.

More Resources for Nurse Fatigue

  1. Nursing Sucks: Now What? How Overworked Nurses Can Move Past ‘I Hate Being a Nurse”
  2. Best Jobs for Nurses with Anxiety
  3. Building Confidence in Nursing: 5 Key Strategies to Empower Your Career
Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

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