Burn out in the ER

I always loved the ER from the very first day in 1996 when my preceptor told me not to worry, I would get the hang of having patients that were very ill from who knows what, had some unknown object in some weird orifice, or died and no one knew why. She was right, I did get the hang of it and stayed around for 10 years as a staff nurse, then charge nurse, then case manager and finally back to staff nurse. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Burn out in the ER

Along the way, I had moments of fatigue, stress, the feeling that I just can't go in there one more day, you know, the feelings all of us have once in awhile.

Was this burn out?

Hmmmm...had to do some thinking on that one.

So I toiled on and on and on and realized in 2002 that maybe I was aging - I was tired more, the night shift was getting busier or was I getting slower? What to do?

Well, since the hospital had gone on the Magnet journey and it appeared that an ADN grad wasn't going anywhere up the food chain, I decided to head back to school.

After school, along a convoluted path, I ended up working part time in a community ER as an APN. How to put this delicately?

Most of the physicians enjoyed working with an APN. However, two physicians refused to work with me, even to the point of making disparaging remarks in front of me.


Am not sure even to this day except that they both seemed liked bitter people in general So...this didn't help the feelings of added stress and fatigue which I once again felt. I have since gone prn at that position and you know what?

My stress and fatigue levels have decreased dramatically.

I'm not advocating quitting or even decreasing your hours when you are fried - you have to do what works for you. At this point, prn works to deal with the burn out for me. Who knows, maybe one day I will go back full-time to the ER, but for now, this solution is the best.

So...my question to everyone is: how do you deal with the added feelings of stress that we experience in the ER?

Trauma Columnist

14-yr RN experience, ER, ICU, pre-hospital RN, 12+ years experience Nephrology APRN. allnurses Assistant Community Manager. Please let me know how I can help make our site enjoyable.

88 Articles   21,247 Posts

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1 Post

Specializes in nursing student.

depend in ur enhancement to do the work for less stress.


258 Posts

Specializes in Psych, M/S, Ortho, Float..

I think that we all get cooked at some point. You reach your max and can go no further. It's time to change direction, in some shape, way or form. I work in a psych hospital. I was on the float team and had to take a time out after abdominal surgery. Geri psych has got to be one of the hardest places to work. I was on the float team and so I wound up going to geri more and more. I was hit twice in the face in 2 weeks. I was affraid to go back. I was told to suck it up. I said no, I would not. So I applied for a job on Forensic Assessment. These patients have been arrested, and something was not right with them so they get sent to us for assessment of their fitness to go to court and understand what is going on. They are not nice people and usually have a very serious mental illness along with a substance abuse problem. The thing is, I feel safer there than I did on Geriatrics. It was my way to change the flavour of what I did without making any big changes. Yes, this job has it's challenges, and because it is under the legal system a whole new dimention has been added. So there are more things to learn. I am still learning to get over the fear of really creepy people in a world that I don't understand, but that is what is keeping me going. By changing my environment, I have had a new lease on my career.

Good Luck TraumaRus. It is sad when we can no longer tolerate what we used to love.


275 Posts

Just to take it in the opposite direction, I am coming up on the end of my second year as an RN, and I am looking to get into the ER. It will be almost being a new grad again (first two years have been in NICU), which makes me a little nervous and very excited.

Which now means I get to spend may hours digging through the AN ER forums...


561 Posts

Specializes in ER, Trauma, ICU/CCU/NICU, EMS, Transport.

the hardest thing in this business is to know who to send home and who to keep!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

88 Articles; 21,247 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

Yes indeed!


1 Post

I am so happy that you found what worked for you. I am graduating in a semester time and intend to work in ED. Wish me luck :)

I've only been in the ED for a little over a year and a half, and I'm already trying to figure out what to do next. It's really sad because I love it, but it's just not safe. We're expected to be miracle workers while carrying unsafe loads, the people that come in with total BS complaints are really starting to get to me, and I'm almost at the point where I don't even care about the patients anymore. I'm very aware that I need to make some changes.

Before I got pregnant, I drank every night when I came home. Not excessively, but to the point where I was relaxed and carefree and would be able to just let go of that day of work. Now that I can't drink, I'm not dealing well at all. I DREAD going to work, I start counting the minutes till I can leave as soon as I get there, I complain incessantly to my SO about how much I hate my job (even though its not the JOB I hate). I don't know. I'm just stuck in a rut. I can't cut back on hours or leave the job because I need the money and health insurance, so right now I'm just trying to deal by working my 3 in a row and not coming back for a week. After the baby is born, I'm hoping to figure out what the heck to go back to school for, and hopefully drop down to part time or prn.

Great blog. Glad to see some of us find peace, and hoping to find some peace of my own SOON.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

88 Articles; 21,247 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

NewbieERRN - I'm so sorry you feel this way. Is there someone you can talk with about these feelings? You are right, drinking is probably not the right way to go about it. Maybe a change of pace?


4 Posts

Specializes in Civilian and Military ER.

I try to work as little as possible. Time with family is more valuable than buying things. My father tells me this daily. A lesson learned the hard way........keeping the 4s and 5s stuck in the lobby and not in a room to decrease wait times keeps me less stressed. If an ER had 10000 rooms could people just seat themselves? I promise you some hospital admin is in their basement drooling and drawing up those plans....


1 Post

I've been working in the ER for about 18 months now as a tech, and I've definitely felt the stress that this environment can bring. Along with working full time, I've now added nursing school to my schedule. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone in the stress I feel and that even people who have been doing this much longer than me still feel the pressure. It's also great to find out that there are avenues like this to communicate with others in the same situation who can offer support, great ideas, and new ways of thinking about things. So far, these are the ways I've found to deal with the stress that comes with my job: Taking advantage of my strong support system at home consisting of my wife and other family members, by not being afraid to share my feelings and not feeling too proud to admit when it's getting to me. Taking part in various sorts of athletics to keep my mind and body in it's optimum shape. Lastly, by fostering strong relationships with my fellow co-workers in order to have a well rounded team of support. Though these seem to work for me most of the time, I'm not naive enough to believe that these are the only, or best ways of dealing with this stress, especially since I've only been using them for a little over a year. Any help that you can offer for my next 50 years on the job, will be greatly appreciated and thoughtfully considered.


11 Posts

How to get an ER job? No one is training these days OR they will take new grads which I find strange so you have to come to it already an ED nurse but how can you if you never got a chance to train?

I have four year med/surg and am bilingual and all I ever wanted to do was work ER but can't even get an interview. I am willing to go anywhere in the country for training but how do I find out where those positions are? Many thanks.

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