3...2...1...Happy New Blog Launch!
Hello! I'm Anna the Nurse! Welcome to The Burnout Book, and happy 2018!
I started The Burnout Book for one simple reason: this is the stuff I wish I knew about 3 years ago.
Let me back up.
I was 26. I'd been nursing for 6 years in a combination of med/surg, telemetry, and CVICU settings (#cardiacnurseforlife) and I found myself in the right place at the right time to transition to a nurse manager role of small 10-bed Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. I actually applied for the job twice. I wasn't chosen the first time around and they were going to pursue another candidate but things didn't pan out. After 6 months of helping out with assistant manager duties like scheduling and timecards and a year with an interim manager, the decision was made to give me a shot. I managed around 30 staff members, worked 5 days a week, I had a salary, and I worked with the most amazing team.
Then, about a year into it, the perfect burnout storm hit.
And I want to preface by saying I had some amazing mentors supporting me through this process and an incredible CVICU crew. The people were everything and I still miss them and think of them fondly as my "home."
I can't go into all the details for HIPAA reasons and because there are other people's stories weaved in and out of mine and it's their story to tell, but suffice it to say, there was a burnout stew brewing and there were a bunch of stuff in the pot: some very critical patient situations with difficult families to handle, moral distress related to those critical patients, poor physician/nurse relations, low staff morale, a learning curve of new education/technology at the bedside, and being understaffed frequently with people being hounded to work extra shifts. Sometimes it was all their perception. Sometimes it was the actual reality of the situation. We all learned just how far we could push ourselves and still survive. We really prided ourselves in our teamwork and that's truly what kept us going.
Burnout is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration." I was getting burned out and my staff was getting burned out. There was one point I had about 75% of my night shift staff transfer or quit, and in my 1 on 1 interviews with them, there were common themes that kept coming up. All those things in the figurative pot of burnout stew I talked about above. And there's a reason why burnout is so high in critical care.
I found myself working 10-12 hour days five days a week, working at the bedside taking patients when we were short staffed, coming in on night shift to help out when the skill mix wasn't right, as well as performing all the regular nurse manager duties of hiring, firing, schedules, timecards, performance reviews, education, newsletters, staff meetings, daily patient rounding, and so.many.emails. I found myself spending Saturday and Sunday each week trying to mentally recharge and recover from the previous 5 days. I discovered I'm the type of personality that can't separate and leave things alone easily. I would stress about work situations while I was at home, worried about a conversation I needed to have the next day or about a patient complaint that I needed to follow up on. I started having stress dreams about work 2 months into the job. Here's a post I made during that time (thanks Facebook memories for dredging that one up):
"Just had my first manager-related work dream/nightmare (you guys get those too, right?). I'm sitting there with 2 people who are reviewing a list of complaints from staff- anything from mistakes I've made to things they've asked for and I haven't followed up on yet. And then I woke up feeling like I wanted to cry. Ridiculous. It's only been two months, but I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and I love the people I work with." -Anna the Nurse, 2015
It seems a little pretentious to quote myself. But this is my burnout story, so I'll carry on like it's normal.
I knew after the first year that I wouldn't be able to do it long term. Meanwhile, I stopped blogging, I stopped baking, I stopped roller derby... there wasn't any time for those things.
On the flip side, it wasn't all negative. I'll say it a million times, I worked with the BEST people! I had very self sufficient and capable charge nurses and staff who did their job and did their best to support me in finding some balance. I found that the parts of managing that I LOVED were the times I'd be able to interact with the patients and when I'd have small successes in helping make the job little bit easier for my staff. So I spent the next year stabilizing the unit, hiring new staff, focusing on education, working on morale, and improving communication. I loved finding opportunities to provide meaningful recognition in the form of "shining star cards" (thank you notes written by patients, families, or peers) and DAISY award nominations. And after a total of two years as manager, I transitioned to travel nursing so I could get back to the bedside, back to three 12-hour shifts a week, and back to something that resembled a work-life balance. I was able to spend time with my husband again!
I learned a lot from that experience. I'm hoping to share some of it with you through this blog! At the same time, I KNOW I'm going to be learning so much from you all as we tackle the very complicated and nuanced subject of burnout.
Here's the plan. I still work full time as a nurse but I want to be consistent and intentional with this. So thanks in advance for being my accountability buddy. ;)
- Weekly: I'm committing to you, my reader, to write a blog post once a week. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter, I'll email you and let you know when there's something new to read! (Writing newsletters was another part of being a manager that I enjoyed).
- Daily: You can follow my Instagram pages: (@the.burnout.book and @anna.the.nurse) for daily nursing-related posts and Instagram stories. And if there's interest in Instagram live video, we'll incorporate that too!
- 3-4 times a week: I'll be sharing posts and links a couple times a week on nursing related topics on my Anna the Nurse Facebook page as well.
With all that in mind, The Burnout Book is here for YOU, so we'll grow and adjust together until it becomes something that's meaningful and valuable to everyone involved. I'm going to do my best to provide valuable content, and I know I'm going to learn so much from you in the process.
Cheers! Happy 2018, Burnout Crew!