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Figure 1 (n.d)
nursinglink.monster.com Figure 2 (n.d) nursetogether.com

"It is easy to care for others at the expense of oneself" "( Copper, 2001, p. 244)

History of the Word Burnout:

The term "burnout" originated in the 1940s, this word was used to describe when a jet engine stops operating at which the point it can no longer work. The word began to be used by humans in the 1970s, a "psychiatrist Herbert Freudenberger used the term to describe the status of overworked volunteers in mental health clinics. He compared the loss of idealism in these volunteers to a building--once a vital structure--that had burned out, and he defined burnout as the progressive loss of idealism, energy, and purpose experienced by people in the helping professions as a result of the condition of their work" (Freudenberger 1970 as cited in Alexander, 2009)

What is a Burnout?

Burnout is a syndrome made up of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Beck, 1995). In nursing profession, burnout is mainly due to the increase in workload and the lack of ability to prioritize that work. During a burnout, the nurse may express symptoms such as frustration, fatigue, hypertension, and depression. To put in simple words, burnout is the result of unmanaged stress rather than a syndrome of work stress (Altun, 2002)

Primary causes of a burnout are:

  • providing care around the clock
  • patients becoming vulnerable and too needy
  • health care constantly changing
  • development of new technologies
  • constant noise & business
  • critical ill patients
  • crisis of patients and family's (Cooper, 2001)
  • work environment- work overload ( limited time, resources, staff)
  • demographic- young age, early in career, high level of education
  • personality- low self esteem, need for approval, perfectionism, impatience ( Alexander,2009)

Burnout Risk Survey: http://www.netce.com/coursecontent.php?courseid=548#DEVELOPMENTOFBURNOUT

NURSING BURNOUT CYCLEexternal image figure_4.gif


  • This ongoing shortage is directly related to the high turnover among nurses as a result of burnout. The problems of burnout and the nursing shortage escalate into dissatisfaction which leads to burnout, nursing turnover and inadequate staffing further increases job dissatisfaction. (Alexander,2009)

Five Stages Leading to Burnout

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First stage of burnout is related to mental and physical exhaustion. If left untreated, burnout with continue through four more stages: indifference, feelings of failure as a professional, feelings of failure as a person and feeling of emotional numbness ( Alexander, 2009).

Health Problems Related to Burnout:

  • Stress related physical illness include: Heart disease, migraines, hypertension, IBS (Miliken, Clements and Tillman, 2007).
  • Stress related mental health problems include: anxiety, depression, insomnia, and feelings of inadequacy (Miliken, Clements and Tillman, 2007).
  • Nurses that are encountering ongoing stress are more likely to eat poorly, smoke cigarettes, use alcohol and drugs (Bruke, 2000, as cited in Miliken et al, 2007).
  • All of these health related problems lead to negative health conditions affecting personal well being and subsequently, the quality and efficiency of patient care (Bruke, 2000, as cited in Miliken et al, 2007).

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Avoiding Burnout

  • Set boundaries with those around you or else people will expect too much from you (Becch, 2007).
  • Keep a distinct balance between friends and colleagues (Becch, 2007).
  • Do not allow family members to place responsibility on you (Becch, 2007).
  • Make sure you are involved in a friendship where both people are giving and taking an equal amount of social support from each other (Becch, 2007).
  • Know how much you can handle, as you cannot please everyone (Becch, 2007).
  • Get a significant amount of sleep each night (8 hours), eat healthy and exercise (Becch, 2007).
  • make full use of mentoring programs available within the workplace positioned toward new faculty, and help socializing between faculty to aid in sharing responsibility (Shirey, 2006).
  • Self-renewal techniques must be implemented into daily routine (Shirey, 2006).
  • Renewal practices ultimately leads to increased energy, and enhanced self-worth feelings (Shirey, 2006).
  • Organizational engagements via institution leaders (Shirey, 2006).
  • Self awareness - recognize the signs of stress within yourself. Identify feelings, thoughts and behaviors you exhibit when under stress (ICN, 2009).
  • Support - Share your concerns with empathetic family members, co-workers, and friends. If necessary seek professional counseling (ICN, 2009).
  • Learn effective relaxation techniques that work for you, think positively, prioritize, set limits and develop a sense of humor (ICN, 2009).

Results if not treated:

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  • Illness and disability
  • Exhaustion
  • Extinction of passion
  • Mental breakdown
  • Extreme depersonalization
(Shirey, 2006)

Figure 3.(n.d.) impactednurse.com

Statistics on burnout: Who it affects more than others!

  • The rates of stress and burnout among nurses have been found to be higher than the rates among other health care professionals, with approximately 40% of hospital nurses having burnout levels that are higher than the morn of health care workers. (Alexander, 2009).
  • Many studies have indicated that the prevalence of burnout is higher among nurses who work in stressful settings, such as oncology, mental health, emergency and critical care (Alexander, 2009)
  • The rates of burnout among African American workers have been shown to be lower. African American workers also experience emotional exhaustion and depersonalization at lower levels of intensity. This difference may be related to the greater emphasis on family and social networks in the African American community (Alexander, 2009).
  • Burnout is less prevalent among older individuals because they tend to be more stable and have a more balanced perspective on life (Alexander,2009).
  • Family status plays an important role in burnout; rates of burnout are higher among single workers and workers with no children, due to the lack of support (Alexander,2009).

Laughter is the best medicine!

" 10 Humorous Ways to tell you are burned out"...

10. You're so tired, you now answer the phone with "Go to Hell"
9. Your friends call to ask how you've been, and you immediately scream, "Stop asking me all these questions!"
8. Your garbage can is your "IN" box.
7. You wake up to discover your house is on fire, but you go back to sleep because you just don't care.
6. You discover a 40 hour week a vacation.
5. Visions of the upcoming weekend help you make it through Monday.
4. You don't set your alarm anymore because you know your pager will go off before your alarm does.
3. You leave for a party and instinctively bring your ID badge.
2. Your Day Timer/Work Planner exploded a week ago.

And the NUMBER ONE sign is

1. You think about how relaxing it would be if you were in jail right now.


​" Comedic Nurse burn out comics"

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Figure 4
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Figure 5
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Figure 6
Figures 4-6 (n.d) nurstoons.com


Alexander,L.(2009) Burnout:Impact on Nursing. Retrieved from http://www.netce.com

Beck, C.T. (1995). Burnout in undergraduate nursing students. Nurse Educator. 20(4), 19-23
Beech, P. (2007). The nurse is not for burning. Nursing Standard, 21(20), 62-4. Retrieved November 29, 2009, from ProQuest Nursing &
Allied Health Source.

Cooper, C. (2001). The art of nursing: A practical introduction. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders.
Figure 1 (n.d) retrieved from nursinglink.monster.com
Figure 2 (n.d) retrieved from **http://www.nursetogether.com/tabid/102/itemid/128/Nurse-Burnout-Prevention.aspx**

Figure 3 (n.d) retrieved from impactednurse.com
Figures 4-6. (n.d) retrieved from nurstoons.com
ICN (2009). ICN on Occupational Stress and the Threat to Worker Health. Retrieved November 22, 2009 from International Council of Nurses
website: http://www.icn.ch/matters_stress.htm

Milliken, T., Clements, P., Tillman, J. (2007). The Impact Of Stress Management On Nurse Productivity And Retention. Jul/Aug 2007 (do we
need the issue date?). 25(4), 203-208. Retrieved November 29, 2009, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source.

Shirey, M., R. (2006). Stress and burnout in nursing faculty. Nurse Educator, 31(3), 95-97