I never thought I would be among the 40% of nurses who would eventually burn out. I loved my job and gained real satisfaction from helping people. When I was a student, I couldn’t wait for the day I would wear my blue uniform and the night before that happened, I proudly ironed and hung it by the door.
My first six months were challenging, but exhilarating. I constantly learnt new things and saw real progress in my own abilities. Often, I would accept overtime shifts because I liked the feeling of helping out. I would stay hours after work without pay and buy birthday cards for patients. Naively, I used to think I was mentally strong enough for burnout never to happen and became used to this new overwhelming lifestyle. However, small things started to build up. The job started to become thankless. Overtime started to become expected and the guilt of not coming in during a busy shift was overwhelming. By month seven, I had started dreading going into work. A good shift started to become one where I didn’t cry. I felt incredibly trapped and lonely.
Burnout is real among newly qualified nurses
Life revolved around the hospital and my days were surrounded by sickness and death. A colleague once explained a hospital wasn’t an accurate depiction of life as it showed people at their worst, but my sense of reality became warped quickly and burnout happened almost overnight.
I decided to take a trip to India after a particularly horrible patient death as I felt I needed to spend time in a place with a different attitude towards life. I packed a small rucksack and took one of my first major solo trips. When I arrived, I felt like I had woken up. I felt younger, more energised. I was surrounded by people who were enjoying and making the most out of life. With every person who smiled at me on the street, I felt grateful to be alive, healthy and happy. I started to notice the people with the least, made the most out of what they had. I began to realise life wasn’t confined to the four walls of the hospital, and really noticed the world around me.
From that trip onwards, I decided to make a conscious effort to appreciate what I had and start becoming a little more selfish in order to enjoy the life I had. I started turning down overtime shifts and spent my days off traveling to different cities. I also decided to move to Australia and work as a travel nurse. Whilst this sounds a bit drastic, I now feel like I can give my best care to patients as I am happier and healthier. Life is too short to be unhappy in your job. Be more selfish, it will benefit you and your patients in the long run.
P.S. Burnout is real, especially among newly qualified nurses. Check up on yourself and new colleagues from time to time x