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Rapidly wearing out


I've been a nurse for over five years, all of which were spent on orthopedic units. We have our fair share of whiners, drama queens, frequent flyers, drug seekers, etc., but most of the patients are decent types who are just trying to get well and go home. I work twelve-hour nights on a 24-bed unit, and it's usually very quiet at night.

Some time ago I went through two years of an extremely painful depressive crisis. I pushed aside the suicidal thoughts and dragged myself in to work every time, hating every minute of it. I recovered about a year ago and am more "myself" again, but this is what is bothering me: it seems I have no patience or compassion any more. I truly could not care less about most of my patients. I find myself rolling my eyes over even the most reasonable request. I used to be a very caring person, but now I'm just so, so tired of constantly being needed by people. I'm like a jar that has had all the sugar in it shaken out, but that people just keep shaking and shaking to get out a few more grains. I feel guilty for resenting my patients' requests -- they can't help needing pain meds or assistance to the bathroom. I'm just worn out. I feel like I've been milked and milked till nothing's left. Does this make me a terrible person, or is it a sign I just need to get out of nursing and find some profession where I don't ever have to be around people?

If anyone else out there has ever felt like I do, I sure would appreciate some advice.


Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 44 years experience.

Nursing burnout is a real phenomenon. Employee Assistance Programs often are able to help one find resources to properly identify issues you are facing and provide counseling to regain life-work balance. When was the last time that you had 2 whole weeks off to step away totally from work --that has worked to destress and re-energize. Changing units or facilities versus totally leaving profession have helped rejuvinate themselves. Since you state having issues with depression in the past, a call to your PCP/mental health professional is advised to give you best guidance regarding overall health.

Following resources can be used as springboards for discussion

Addressing nurse burnout

Nursing Made Incredibly Easy!

July/August 2012

Phyllis Dunn MSN, RN

At the beginning of every nurse's career, the driving force is the care of patients from the onset of illness through recovery. However, burnout is a global nursing workforce challenge, which some experts say undermines nurse retention. The literature suggests that burnout is the number one reason for the inability of facilities to retain nurses.

One study identified three dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (or cynicism), and a feeling of a lack of personal accomplishment. Other studies have explored environmental factors, such as job dissatisfaction, extreme workload, and lack of senior leadership support. The economy plays a role in nurse burnout as well; many facilities are relying on voluntary and mandatory overtime to solve staffing problems, leading to nurses' exhaustion and dissatisfied with their jobs....

Identify the problem

In order to find a solution to nurse burnout, it must first be identified. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is the gold-standard instrument used to assess burnout, and its reliability and validity have been well documented. Dr. Maslach emphasizes that burnout isn't just related to an individual; rather, it's a social problem derived by the interactions of individuals in a mismatched work environment.

The MBI comprises 16 self-descriptive statements in three separate categories: emotional exhaustion (EX), professional efficacy (PE), and cynicism (CY). The EX subscale assesses the nurse's feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by his or her work. The PE subscale measures feelings of competence and achievement in the current work environment. Finally, the CY subscale assesses the unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one's care....

Wiki: Nursing 101 Burn Out in the Nursing Profession

Net CE Course # 3143 • Burnout: Impact on Nursing