What is nurse burnout?

Nurse burnout occurs when the physical and emotional stress of nursing gets to be too much. The stress we feel can lead to physical and emotional symptoms and lead to professional dissatisfaction.

Burnout can occur both for nurses as well as students. Nursing can be a very stressful profession. Nurses often work long hours, 12 hours being a fairly normal shift and sometimes 16 hour shifts. Working 3 days per week of 12 hour shifts is the norm, the days are long but 4 days off per week is not a bad thing. Those who work 16 hour shifts are usually by choice. 

nurse stress

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These long days are filled with many different skills depending on the area you work in, as well as physically and mentally caring for patients and their families. Spending 12 hours on your feet running is draining in itself, doing it every day can get to anyone at times. 

As nurses there are many times we have to deal with difficult patients or families, difficult doctors, or just have a stressful day with a very sick patient. Everyone needs a break from their work at times to destress and nurses are no exception. We may go into nursing because we care and want to help people but that does not mean we don't need to take a break from it once in a while.

Student nurses can experience this stress as well. Student nurses have long hours between attending classes, assignments, studying, clinical hours and the assignments that go along with clinicals. There never seems to be enough time in the day, but you will get through it.


What are the signs of nurse burnout?

Physical symptoms may include:

  • depression
  • insomnia
  • high blood pressure
  • headache
  • increased irritability or agitation
  • lead to addictions



Other symptoms can include:

  • a negative attitude towards their job
  • no longer enjoy going to work
  • have difficulty focusing
  • may become emotionally detached

Nursing continuing education

For more information on burnout and stress there is an article on nursing ceu entitled Burnout: Coping with stress. This article offers 1.5 ceu's. For more ceu offers visit our nursing ceu page.


Nurse.com is offering a 1 credit course course on From 'Distress' to 'De-stress' With Stress Management. This course is free to subscribers of their unlimited CEU package.

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