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Nursing Burnout: Stress Management Tips for Nurses

The Statistics

Did you know the burnout rate for nurses is over 50%, according to a 2017 study by Kronos? In the same study, which 257 nurses at US hospitals were surveyed, 63% of nurses stated they were burnout, and 43% reported they worried their patient care suffered because they are so tired. Alarming statistics. Nurses learn so much throughout nursing school with very little focus on self care and stress management for themselves. Study after study reveals work related stress leading to burnout is a significant issue among nurses in the US. 

What is Burnout?

Burnout is the result of chronic stress. It can happen when the perceived demands outweigh the perceived resources (Potter et al., 2014). A study out of the University of Toledo (Ohio) found that 92% o

f nurses reported ” moderate to high stress,”” yet the majority lacked coping mechanisms to manage the stress load. Not only does this negatively impact the nurses’ own health, but it has a tremendous effect on patient safety. A 2016 study on the correlation between burnout and patient safety, found that for every patient added to the workload of a nurse experiencing burnout, would increase the risk of infection. 

Symptoms for Burnout

Recognizing the symptoms of burnout is the key to change. Some signs and symptoms that you or others are experiencing are exhaustion, anger, cynicism, irritability, restlessness, lack of focus, and unable to engage with patients. Sound familiar? 

In addition, it is thought that burnout and/or compassion fatigue could be a contributing factor to lateral violence (Potter et al, 2017). This occurs when nursing staff gossips, withhold information from each other, and/or demonstrates non-verbal expression of disapproval. 

Healthy Stress Management techniques

  • Journal. Journaling is an excellent stress relief. Just brain dump everything on paper. 
  • Start an exercise regimen. Walking or running an excellent way of managing stress. If you don’t know where you start, check out, and sign up for the free, learn to run training plan! This plan will get you started running gradually. Besides, there are many resources out there on the internet to get you started.
  • Do Yoga. Yoga is also a great stress relief technique because it helps keep you in the present moment. While in the yoga practice, you will be guided to breathe in sync with your breath, often this causing you to empty your mind, which can be extremely beneficial in lowering your stress level. You can download the GAIA app to stream great classes at home, or find a yoga class in your community. 
  • Download a free meditation app such as Headspace or Calm. There are excellent tools to use if you have a hard time or are new to meditation. These offer guided meditations, which can help you get into the routine of meditating. 
  • Schedule a massage. Not only are massages so beneficial for your body, but they will also allow you to rest and relax- giving you the time to bring your stress level down in a healthy way.
  • Eat healthy. Do your best to eat fruits and vegetables. When you fuel your body with real foods, you’re going to feel more energized, rested, and restored. Try and avoid alcohol on days your are REALLy feeling stressed. Believe it or not, it actually has a negative effect on your body’s stress response (we will get into this on a later post).
  • Drink plenty of water. You should strive to drink at least 1/2 your weight in ounces each day. 

I hope this helps give you some ideas for self-care and stress management when you are feeling stressed at work. Burnout doesn’t have to happen if you have some stress relief coping tactics in your toolkit!

Yes, as a nurse, you will get stressed. You are going to have bad days and feel overwhelmed. However, recognizing how to de-stress in a healthy way- not through food and/ or alcohol is key to preventing burnout. You can have a long, happy, and healthy nursing career- without burnout!


Potter, P. A., Perry, A. G., Hall, A., & Stockert, P. A. (2017). Fundamentals of nursing. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

Ross, J. (2016). The Connection Between Burnout and Patient Safety. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing31(6), 539–541. DOI: 10.1016/j.jopan.2016.08.010t