Staying motivated and avoiding burnout in nursing


People who go into nursing are highly motivated and usually see the career as a vocation. Unlike with some jobs, few people go into nursing solely for the money, but do so because they genuinely want to help people. They go into it in the full knowledge that it is not going to be easy, but they know that it’s worth it, because they are making a difference to people’s lives and also because it fulfills a need in them as caring, empathetic and altruistic individuals.

Nevertheless, it’s common for the stress, frustration and exhaustion of nursing to mount up and sometimes get on top of even the best-motivated practitioners. Nursing is rewarding and meaningful, but also challenging and draining. It’s highly demanding in terms of both time and energy, and it can be difficult to switch off and relax at the end of the day. So how do you avoid burnout, stay motivated and keep focused on the job from day to day?

Separate your work from home life

It’s important to have clear boundaries separating your working life from your home or personal life. The hours are long enough as it is without worrying or stressing over job issues when you’re meant to be spending time with your family, or even trying to sleep. 

Have a little ritual that clearly signifies when you’re going off-duty. It could be as simple as taking off your badge, changing your clothes or stepping into the shower. From that point on, your time and your thoughts are your own: go out for pizza, watch a film or catch up with friends. This can make all the difference in terms of giving yourself a mental break from the stresses of the job.

Give yourself a break

As an adult gerontology nurse practitioner, you will spend most of your time caring for older people and helping them to deal with age-related conditions and illnesses. Older patients are often lonely and particularly appreciate the element of human contact and personal interaction, which is also very rewarding for the nurse. But it can be frustrating when there isn’t enough time to provide as much care as you would like.  

At those moments, remember that you are doing the best that you can and that you are already making a huge difference to your patients’ lives. You can’t solve every injustice in the world single-handed, but just by doing your job, you are contributing to an improved quality of life for those in your care. 

Reconnect with core values

Sometimes your shifts can be taken up with tasks that seem far removed from the reasons you signed up to nursing in the first place. Paperwork and computer processing are necessary parts of the role but can take you away from the regular close contact and personal care your patients require. At these times, it’s good to reconnect with the core values of nursing in your mind and to remember that the jobs are an essential part of the role.

Make time for yourself outside of work and don’t forget to have a social life and other interests that don’t revolve around nursing. Don’t feel guilty about having fun when you’re off-duty. When you go back to work, you’ll be a better nurse because of it.