Nurse Burnout: What are the greatest sources?

Nurses have shown the commitment to their oath to heal their patients throughout the centuries, but it’s important that they take good care of themselves as well. Burnout can be defined as physical, mental and emotional exhaustion which is brought on by high exposure to work-related stress. Their burnout can lead to job dissatisfaction and loss of commitment which can ultimately have a negative impact on their patients.

There are a number of triggers which can cause work-related stress which can lead to nurse burnout.

Noticing nurse burnout

As a nurse, when you feel constantly exhausted and emotionally overextended or you’ve noticed significant changes in your behaviour such as increased irritability, this could be an indication that you have burnout. It’s important to identify these mood swings in order to take actions upon prevention and cure.

Nurse burnout will have an undesirable effect on other parts of your daily lifestyle and will lead to reduced energy and impaired decision-making, which will greatly impact both your personal and professional life.

Burnout consists of three main symptoms:

Low sense of accomplishment

At this point you may feel as though you’re not competent enough and no longer successful at the work that you do. Feeling like you’re not positively contributing at work could be an indicator that you have started to experience increased levels of stress that your body and mind are triggered to think you are not doing enough.


As a classic sign of burnout is being cynical and easily irritated. Having a negative attitude towards colleagues and patients leans towards an indication that there are deeper lying problems that you’re going through. What nurses show on the surface is a very small percentage from what they experience from the inside. It’s imperative that such symptoms be monitored to find the core trigger and eventually cure the cause.


When everything around you seems to suck the lifeforce and leave you emotionally exhausted, it is a huge red flag. Your lack of energy and enthusiasm on a daily basis shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can define your whole lifestyle. Some nurses feel extremely drained from the stress that has added up in the workplace. As a result some nurses may have increased “call in sick” days, very often because they have no power to start a normal day.

What causes those burnouts in nurses

Nurse burnout can be seen in all stages in the nursing profession. New nurses, ER nurses or nurse manager burnout, everyone can be affected and can be interlinked. Nurses generally have increased levels of stress due to the nature of their work. Now working in the frontlines during this Covid-19 pandemic is taking an even greater toll.

Shortage of staff leads to work overload for the available nurses and is believed to be the main reason for nurse burnout. Insufficient nursing staffing is a major problem in South Africa and this leads to overworking the available staff as they battle to save the lives of patients. Nurses are taking on longer shifts in order to cover the human resource gap, working throughout the holidays, taking night shifts and not having enough sleep, resulting in exhaustion.

This all adds up and at right at that point – when your mind and body can’t take the stress anymore – you experience a burnout.

How to prevent burnouts

Evidence based practice on nursing burnout shows few ways of how it could be prevented.

Find your work-life balance

Set boundaries between work and your personal life. Shift your focus from work related problems and thoughts once you leave the hospital.

Get enough sleep

Set up a proper sleeping schedule, although tricky due to the long work hours and night shifts. However there are ways which could help such as adjusting your circadian clock, exercising at certain times and preparing an eating schedule.

Checking on your mental and physical health

It is crucial to understand when you reach your stress level maximum capacity. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle could be helpful.

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    2021-03-05T14:24:27+02:00March 5th, 2021|Blog|