What is burnout in the medical profession?
As we all know nursing and midwifery are physically and mentally demanding roles. Recognising burnout in ourselves and our colleagues is the first step to tackling the problem.
It is no surprise that occurrences of burnout are increasingly common in 2022. Medical professionals have worked throughout waves of Covid19 pre-vaccination with countless variants and all of the challenges that a pandemic brings. We are now playing catch up with delays in services, overdue training, and general exhaustion.
Burnout in nurses and midwives can show in many ways although common symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under-appreciated which may, in turn, cause a feeling of not wanting or being able to return to work. This often occurs when nurses have felt physically and mentally under pressure for a period of time.
It is important that we look out for these signs in our colleagues as well as ourselves.
How can we tackle or prevent burnout in nurses and midwives?
Mindfulness can be defined as ‘maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environments through a gentle, nurturing lens’. Here are six steps to practicing mindfulness for nurses and midwives as suggested by the RCN.
- Connect to your senses to bring you into the moment – notice what you can see, hear, smell and feel.
- Take three mindful breaths, focusing on how it feels when you breathe in and out deeply.
- Be aware of your body, how it feels and any movements you’re making.
- Notice the emotions you’re feeling. Pause to name them, without judging or criticising yourself.
- Notice the type of thoughts in your mind, rather than specific thoughts. Name the types – are they memories, worries, past conversations, or future plans?
- Find somewhere to sit or stand to do a three-step breathing practice: 1. Awareness: notice how your body feels and what you’re thinking. 2. Your breath: become aware of which parts of your body move when you breathe in and out and how this feels. 3. Expanding: breathe deeply so it feels like each breath fills your whole body.
2. Support your colleagues and let them support you.
Now that you know the symptoms, watch out for your colleagues too. No one knows or understands the pressure of nursing and midwifery like those you also share your field. Having solid relationships in the workplace can give you an emotional outlet to discuss how you are feeling. Do not be worried about escalating your concerns to management too.
3. Set boundaries between work and home.
Although I appreciate this is not always easy, try to leave your work at work. Once you leave your shift, focus on your family and try to engage in activities that you enjoy. If you are struggling with this then try the mindfulness activity listed above.
4. Look after yourself.
Once again this may be easier said than done but you must look after yourself. Are you getting enough sleep? Can you ensure this time is protected?
Exercise is extremely important. Can you schedule a workout, a walk, or a swim? Exercise is known to improve both physical and mental health.
How is your diet? Eating a varied and healthy diet will work in combination with the above aspects to improve overall health.
I hope you have found this helpful and remember you are amazing.