Yup, if you read my blog post about how I let myself get burned out you would hear me, in the midst of my confusion, confessing: “I’ve been mentally, emotionally, and physically tired more often than not. I found myself getting anxious as I got closer to having to start a shift. I caught myself standing in my kitchen crying my face off because I finally admitted to myself that I was burned out…” And then comes that glorious moment where I point my finger at Emergency Room nursing as the cause. That was 6 months ago. At the time it was so obvious to me that being in the Emergency Room was wearing me out and I was certain that if I just got a new job I would feel better. So that’s what I did. I took a job in the Quality Department where I now have an office and do chart reviews for emergency cases. You read that correctly….after 16 years at the bedside I now have an office job. At first it made me anxious because there was no adrenaline rush, no life to save, no 500 mile long to do list the moment I clocked in….heck, I’m salaried now so I don’t even have to clock in anymore! After a couple of months in the new position enjoying the peace of the office and the flexibility of the scheduling (no more holiday shifts….ever!) the truth of this whole burnout thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Being an Emergency Room nurse was not what burned me out. What burned me out was ME. Looking at myself in the mirror after I had publicly announced that that the Emergency Room had burned me out and then realizing that it was not the truth stung a bit. Back in February it sure felt like the truth, but hindsight is always 20/20. I was using my job as an excuse to not do the things I knew I needed to do to take care of myself. I had stopped exercising because the shift I had worked prior “wore me out and I was too tired.” I had stopped eating healthy food because “after the day I just had I deserved to eat comfort food.” I slowly started to withdraw into myself because “No one could possibly understand the stress of what I do and I need to process this on my own.” I had stopped going to bed at a decent time because “a little netflix is exactly what I needed to help me get my mind off the overwhelm I was feeling.” I was wrong in so many ways. I had stopped exercising because I had stopped making self-care a priority. I had stopped eating healthy because I stopped valuing nutrition. I withdrew because had boarded the self-pity train and being the victim was easier than doing the work. I had started letting Netflix keep me awake because being numb and emotionally invested in fiction was easier than digging in to my anxiety and taking accountability by processing my emotions. And the worst part? I had an incredibly believable excuse: Nursing is HARD. But like any poor coping mechanism and any excuse no matter how believable it is, it works until it doesn’t. Honestly, as I write this, I wonder how many other nurses are feeling the same and getting caught in the trap of using their profession as an excuse to let themselves get burned out.
I can confidently say that this job in the Quality Department is a blessing. It took away my excuse. When I was still feeling tired, drained, exhausted, worn out, and disengaged, I realized that I had taken ME with ME into this new position. I was the common denominator. I had no more “hard job” to blame for not taking care of myself. Talk about a reality check. It was that day that I KNEW what I had already known intellectually…..self-care is not just some cliche, and all of the reasons I used to justify putting myself at the bottom of the list were just bulls***t excuses. There is a high cost to pay for not caring for yourself: physical exhaustion, emotional numbness, feelings of overwhelm, needing a bigger scrub size, lower self-confidence…..just to name a few.
While I am super happy to say that I have gotten off of the self-pity train and am taking accountability for the results I created, I am hoping that my journey can help inspire you to do the same. If you are on the train and still pointing your finger at anything that is not you, have the courage to jump off and join me in doing it differently. If you are considering jumping on the train and letting yourself get burned out, DON’T DO IT!!!! Learn from my mistake and course correct now before you have to experience the depth of that decision. If you are already doing it differently and thriving in this life, pay it forward to other nurses who need that encouragement and inspiration to do the same. One thing I know for sure about nurses is that we are freaking resilient and we have so much power to make a difference. The time to use that power put ourselves first and support each other in changing the culture of nursing in NOW. My challenge to you is to chose one thing that you can do everyday to take care of you. One action item that will help you move from stress to strength. One small change that you can make on a daily basis that will change the course of how you feel for the better. Point that finger in your own face, take accountability, and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Ready? Go!