Let’s face it: nursing school is hard. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program as a second-degree student. I thought I knew what to expect since I already had a degree. I was wrong!
Nursing school is at once the hardest and most fulfilling challenge I’ve ever undertaken. When I was there, many of my classmates struggled with burnout at one time or another. To be honest, I found myself succumbing to burnout a time or two (we won’t talk about the semester I had to take Pharmacology…).
Every semester, you’ll have a wealth of information to memorize and a variety of skills to practice. It’s no surprise that many experience burnout—it’s quite a workload to maintain throughout the course of your education. Understanding nursing school burnout can help you recognize its initial warning signs. Then, you’ll be able to use several tips to help you maintain your energy and focus.
Why Does Nursing School Burnout Happen?
At its very heart, burnout is a symptom of a larger problem. If you feel like you’re burnt out, you likely feel mentally, physically, and even emotionally exhausted. For most, nursing school burnout is linked to high stress levels, often because of over-engagement in school itself.
Successfully passing nursing school means giving up significant portions of your time to go to class, study, and practice your skills. It’s not a 9-5 grind either. There were many nights I had to pass on hanging out with friends because I had upcoming tests and needed to study. Late nights studying, days packed with commitments, and free time that’s eaten up with schoolwork can all lead to burnout.
Burnout often leads to disengagement in school and at home, and that’s not a good thing. Burnout can make you lose motivation to get work done. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. Left unchecked, burnout can sometimes even develop into more serious psychological issues like depression or anxiety. As you can tell, it’s not a good idea to ignore burnout.
What are the Signs of Nursing School Burnout?
There isn’t just one sign of burnout—there are several signs that you could be experiencing burnout, even if you don’t realize it. Common signs of nursing school burnout include:
- Being irritable or impatient with those you love.
- Changes in your sleeping or eating habits.
- Difficulty focusing on assignments or projects.
- Lack of energy and motivation to complete schoolwork.
- Procrastination and missing important deadlines.
- Using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope with negative emotions.
Burnt out nursing students sometimes blame nursing school for anything negative that happens in life. You might begin to resent your nursing school program for taking up so much of your time and effort. In some cases, students feel less satisfied by their accomplishments in their program.
No matter how you feel, burnout isn’t something to be ignored. But you can combat burnout using self-care techniques and other tips to help you feel better.
How Can You Combat Nursing School Burnout?
Overcoming nursing school burnout is possible, but it does take a little work. Many tips on avoiding burnout focus on self-care, which is an important skill to learn anyway!
You can avoid or battle burnout by:
- Avoiding procrastination. Try not to wait until the last minute to get things done. Completing assignments or other tasks early can take a huge weight off your shoulders.
- Develop positive coping mechanisms. Instead of turning to vices like alcohol, which can actually make you feel worse, try healthier coping mechanisms. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and simply spending time with friends and family can all help.
- Get outside. Time in nature is extremely beneficial for mood. If you can, try to spend a little time outside every day.
- Start exercising. It’s no secret that exercise improves both mental and physical health. It’s helpful to have a daily or weekly exercise routine to burn off stress and get those endorphins pumping.
- Take time off. Down time during nursing school may not come around that often, but when it does, take advantage of it.
- Unplug whenever possible. While in school, it’s likely you’ll spend a lot of time in front of your computer screen. If you can, try to unplug from all electronic devices on a regular basis.
Don’t forget—you can use your burnout coping skills throughout your nursing career. Some licensed nurses experience burnout after they begin working. It’s not unusual, but it’s also not something that you just have to live with. Developing your self-care skills and using tips to combat burnout will serve you well throughout your entire nursing career. You can also find additional tips for succeeding nursing school here!
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.