This series is from a contributing author for The Elite NP: Erica Dorn, MSN, APRN. She is a recovering burned out nurse practitioner herself and is the author of a website on nurse practitioner burnout at https://www.ericadornnp.com/. For additional tips and support, check out her Facebook page as well: The Burned-Out Nurse Practitioner.
Erica touches on setting boundaries in this final article. I am very thankful she did because this article resonated with me as a business owner. Sometimes you have to say “NO!” You must set boundaries for yourself in your professional and personal life. If you do not, you will be walked all over. Unfortunately, this is prevalent amongst nurse practitioners… This is a reason why salaries continue to decrease and workload is increasing. You must set boundaries! We all do! If we do not, the problem will worsen, and the burnout will continue… Now, onto the 4th and final article…
We are going to look at setting personal and workplace boundaries. This may be one of the most difficult tips I give you, but it is so important.
Boundaries help define expectations for those involved. Setting up reasonable limits can help establish clear roles. We should make sure we voice our boundaries to prevent feeling taken advantage of and ensure everyone is on the same page. It is vital in establishing a more equal work-life imbalance.
Personal boundaries: It is your responsibility to set up healthy boundaries with family, friends, or coworkers. Avoid being a people pleaser. Doing tasks for other people at the expense of your sanity can lead to burnout. We previously discussed the importance of self-care. Establish and share these boundaries with your family and/or coworkers.
Establish boundaries with yourself. Avoid checking work email when you are away from the office. If you find yourself thinking about work when you should be enjoying your free time, focus on the present moment. Make a boundary to leave work every day at 1730 so you can enjoy family time.
Have charts to finish up? Increase focus during the day or leave it until the next day. Still behind on charts? Ask administration for 2-4 hours once a week, dedicated to completing the charts (more on that to come). Establishing clear boundaries AND voicing them to those that need to hear it, can prevent further burnout.
Workplace boundaries: I took a job in the same town as my children’s school and daycare. I have a 10-minute commute. I take call one night a week and on alternating weekends which makes me feel imbalanced, but it could be much worse. During my interview, I asked if I would be able to leave early some days to attend my son’s school functions. It is a priority for me to be involved in my child’s education and life. I set this boundary early. I would have thought twice about signing that contract if administration didn’t agree. I do my best to focus on work while at work and not worry about the stress when at home. I am very fortunate to have my current job. It keeps some sort of work-life balance in my life.
But I know that is not the case for many NPs. You may be frustrated about administration allowing double or triple booking of patients. You probably feel discouraged about needing to “see more patients and make more money for the institution.”
There are some things we cannot control.
But what if we all stand up together? What if we acknowledge the significance of burnout in NPs? Let’s discuss with the administration. Let’s tell them how much we are struggling. Let’s ask if we can have the afternoon off to attend our father’s oncology appointment with him. Let’s refuse to see 50 patients a day- it’s not safe for anyone.
Similar to not taking a job because of an offensively low salary, let’s not take jobs that have the potential to cause burnout.
If you have these serious discussions and your boss is not willing to make any positive changes, then figure out what you can control. Do you find a different job? Do you drop to part-time? Do you become an entrepreneur? Or do you leave the healthcare field completely?
I don’t like telling people to quit their jobs without making personal changes such as prioritizing time and self-care first. But you HAVE to do what is best for you! Work on setting safe boundaries at work and control what you can.
You are in control of your life
As healthcare providers, many of us have experienced moments of loss with our patients. We were there when a patient passed. We’ve been there for the family who is grieving. We’ve witnessed a decline in our patient’s quality of life. We’ve seen a loss of dreams. We have experienced sadness because our patient was unable to visit their family because of heart failure. We have experienced resistance to putting their loved ones in a nursing home because of financial strain. We care for patients in their most vulnerable times. Towards the end of life, we have seen patients experience regrets. They identify the “should haves.” They reflect on the good and bad times of their lives.
Now it’s your turn. I want you to sit and look at your life. Write it down. Reflect on what makes you happy. What makes you feel energized. Who you love spending your time with. What makes you frustrated. What is contributing to your burnout. What you wished your life looked like. We never know where life will take us… and it can change in a blink of an eye.
The one thing I know is that we have the power to make a change. You are the one that can change your own life.
In the words of my high school principal, “You have the power to make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.”
I challenge you to make one, small, tiny change right now. Commit to improved work-life imbalance. Get the help to overcome burnout. NPs are some of the strongest people I know.
Just remember, you are not alone…
I hope everyone enjoyed this mini-series and were able to get something out of it that might help treat or prevent burnout! I wanted to give a big thank you to Erica for reaching out to me about nurse practitioner burnout and contributing these articles to The Elite NP community. Like I mentioned in the first article of this mini-series, if you or someone you know would be interested in contributing an article to The Elite Nurse Practitioner, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.