Oncology Nurse Burnout?


HI there fellow nurses,

I'm a new grad (graduated December 2013) and have been working as a registered nurse for the last 9 months. 6 months in Acute Medicine and the last 3 months in Leukemia / Bone Marrow Transplant.

I am tired ALL THE TIME.

My schedule generally is as follows 2 day shifts (0700-1900) followed by 2 night shifts (1900-0700) after which I get either 4 or 5 days off. This depends on the week. Keep in mind there are no other shift schedule options available where I work. All nurses work 2 days 2 nights unless you shift trade to get all days / all nights which can be complicated....

My question to you all:

If you have a schedule similar to mine, how do you cope? With the physical, mental, and emotional demands of my job I find that I am too exhausted on my days off to do much of anything at all aside from sleep and laze around. My house is a mess. I haven't been able to stick to a regular exercise plan. I feel like everything is falling apart!

When I'm at work I find that I can do nothing apart from work. I get up go to work, go home, sleep, repeat. Then switch to nights where I sleep in, get up go to work, sleep all day, go to work, sleep, and then try to transition back to a daytime schedule.

Does anyone have any tips for dealing with the mental / physical / emotional exhaustion during my work days so that I have more energy to put towards fulfilling activities (and towards household chores) outside of work?

Thank you so much I really appreciate any advice you may have!!

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,813 Posts

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 11 years experience.

I've just had a job change from district nursing to working in a hospital level care facility for older people. With both jobs I do alot of palliative and end stage care which is very tiring.

Some things I've found that work for me.

- Excercise, not talking going for a 10 mile run, currently I'm doing about 3.5kms on the exercycle, when i started I could barely do 1. Pick something that is achievable for you, perhaps it might be a walk around the block.

- Diet. I know from my own experience when I dont eat right it makes me feel vile. Its easy with shift work to just snack on rubbish

- With the housework do it a bit at a time does it matter if you cant get it all done in a day?

- I'm currently sitting in a motel in Hamner Springs (a stunning geothermal resort town) with excellent hot pools, decided after my last shift to take off for a couple of days. Sometimes we just have to decide to do something regardless of how tired we feel. When I arrived, the first thing I did was take a 3 hour nap something I always do when I hit the country, all the fresh air and all..

But most importantly find something outside of the job that you enjoy doing. Me, I'm a craft nut, anything from card making, knitting, crochect, cross stitch etc.

Self care IMO is an essential part of being a good nurse. If we dont care for ourselves how the heck do we expect to be able to care for our patients

Specializes in Pediatric Hem/Onc. Has 4 years experience.

I don't think your issues stem from being an oncology nurse - that schedule is brutal! A few chosen ones are able to flip their schedules all around without issue, but most people need an established sleep cycle. You feel tired because your body is totally confused with your rotating sleep schedules. I'd imagine you're not getting any quality sleep either. I work straight nights, and I have to maintain the same sleep schedule on my off days. I'm looking forward to finishing grad school so I can afford to go on straight days.

I also highly recommend a diet/exercise regimen. Sometimes I'll go for a short run after work (provided I'm not back at work that night) or do a Beachbody DVD. It's helpful for sleep too. I'm betting if you approach someone and offer to work all their night shifts, you could get a straight PM shift. I did this after rotating for about 3 months. My body just couldn't handle it, even with our rotation of 3 weeks each of nights and days.

Good luck! I hope you figure out something that works for you.

Specializes in Inpatient Oncology/Public Health. Has 16 years experience.

I've been an Onc nurse for almost 8 years. I used to work full time nights, now I work part time nights and switch to days to care for my kids. It's brutal and pretty much horrible for you health wise to switch your sleep cycles like that. Have you had your vitamin D checked? Mine was 18 when I had it checked recently. I've even had memory issues and headaches that have taken me to a neurologist(my gp thinks it's all my schedule.) That said, I do also feel working this area hasn't helped my depression or anxiety when I'm caring for young people dying every shift. I eventually will get off of nights and out of this area.