How to Avoid Burnout Using the Art of NursingHow to Avoid Burnout Using the Art of Nursing

As a nurse burnout expert, I write heavily on the topic. My blog over at provides many posts related to what burnout is, why nurses suffer from burnout, and much more. So for today’s post, I am not going to get too much into detail of the nurse burnout definition or causes. What I am going to do is offer an alternative solution.

Burnout is tough. I will say that. From nurses who tell me that they did not even know that they were experiencing it to those who share feedback with me about the length of time it affected their professional and personal life… burnout seems to be infecting the profession of nursing.

The challenge is- there does not seem to be an answer to this issue. Again, something I write about over on, so won’t spend much time on this here. What I do want to do is offer strategies related to the art of nursing that will help nurses cope with or end nurse burnout in their nursing careers.

[bctt tweet=”Here Are 2 Proven Techniques to Help Nurses Avoid Burnout Using the Art of Nursing” username=”ElizabethScala”]

1) Practice Presence.

It has been proven, in numerous studies, that mindfulness can impact our performance at work. This is because practicing presence increases our ability to focus and concentrate on tasks. Additionally, a mindfulness practice, can reduce stress and increase engagement. OK- so this stuff works. But let’s be honest:

  • How do we practically do this as nurses?
  • What does this mean for bringing the art of nursing into the workplace?
  • Why will this impact nurse burnout?

Practice presence as nurses in our nursing careers

Let’s walk through two practical examples so that you have actual techniques to bring with you to work. The first is known as “grounding”. This means pausing and fully feeling the feet to the floor. What a nurse can do, in any workplace or setting, is do this before entering a space (e.g. room, home, phone call) with a patient. So the nurse is about to encounter a patient. Instead of rushing in and starting in on the to-do list of nursing tasks, the nurse pauses. Literally stops. Take a deep breath in and out of the nose and as you do, feel the feet fully grounded to the floor. Once the exhale is complete, then it is time to go forward with work. OK- so how long does that take? 5 seconds? Maybe 7, depending on your inhale and exhale. It does not have to take a ton of time out of your day!

Next technique. Using what you already do as a nurse to take a moment to pause and be mindful. Here’s a great one. A nurse washing his or her hands. How often does he or she do that during the course of the work day? And even a nurse, out in the field, I know you either wash your hands when you get to a sink or you use some kind of hand sanitizer in between the full hand washing. OK, here’s your technique. While washing your hands, instead of thinking, planning, or making lists in your head, just breathe. Focus on the breath as you wash your hands. You may even recite an inspiring or grateful (we will get to that one below) mantra over and over and over as you wash your hands. Again, did this take more time? No. You were going to wash your hands anyway- why not do it mindfully?

Art of Nursing and Nurse Burnout

Using the two mindfulness strategies above, you have taken the time to invite the art of nursing into your nursing career. You have slowed down just enough to pause, be still, and breathe. This will prevent nurse burnout because you are recharging your batteries during your work day. Burnout creates feelings of exhaustion. When you practice one or both of the presence techniques above, you are taking a moment to pause and re-energize yourself so that you can continue on with the hustle and bustle of your work.

How to Avoid Burnout Using the Art of Nursing2) Appreciative Inquiry

Again, science is on our side, folks. There has been extensive work done in the field of positive psychology that shows appreciation and gratitude has positive effects on the workplace. Just as before, let’s give you two practical strategies for how to avoid burnout using the art of nursing. Here we go…

Use Appreciative Inquiry at Work

I teach this concept in the presentations and workshops that I give. While I love this technique and recommend it often, I did not come up with it. David Cooperrider and colleagues have done extensive work on developing this technique. For the sake of space in today’s post, I am going to just pull out one part that you can use in your nursing career.

In my experience as a nurse, I have sat through many meetings and on various committees that look at the problem. What’s the problem and how do we fix it? OK, that’s one way to get to a solution. By focusing on what is wrong and fixing that issue. Another is using appreciative inquiry to ask different questions. So, something that you can do today in your nursing career to invite the art of nursing in and avoid burnout is ask instead:

  • What is working in this current situation? What IS going well?
  • What are our strengths? What are our unique talents, skills, or attributes that we bring to this group and how can we leverage them to move forward?
  • What would we want the outcome to look like? If we were to wave a magic wand and have three wishes granted, what would our ideal future be?

Using these questions and the appreciative inquiry model can shift your thinking from lack to abundance. And this is just one way to stop nurse burnout.

Gratitude… With a Twist!

I am sure that many of you reading have heard of gratitude journals or practice by now. You know, sitting down at the end or start of your day, and writing down the three things that you are grateful for. And that’s a GREAT start! But there’s more…

In my workshops and talks, I teach “gratitude with a twist”. This adds an additional layer to give you even more results!

What this means is you not only write down what you are grateful for… you write down how that thing (e.g. person, place, animal, experience, location) makes you feel. You add emotion to it.

Human beings live through their emotions. They really do. And memories get stored emotionally. So rather than just listing out the things that you are grateful for you list out what you are grateful for and how it makes you feel. How can we bring this into nursing?

  • Start off a staff meeting going around the room sharing a gratitude and how that made you feel.
  • Begin a committee meeting with a person on the committee that you are grateful for and how they make you feel.
  • Send an email to a colleague, telling them what you are thankful for and how they made you feel.
  • Talk to your patients about gratitude, better yet- talk to them about why you are grateful for them and how that makes you feel. Wow, talk about the art of nursing in practice!

OK- I think I have left you with plenty of homework. My advice- commit to one thing. Just take one of the techniques above and implement them into your nursing career. Start today! And let us know how it goes…

Let’s hear from you! Have you ever brought the art of nursing into your nursing career? What did you do and how did it help with nurse burnout? Share a comment below on how nurses can add more art to nursing practice, and thank you for reading. Feel free to share a PDF copy of this article with your nursing staff or colleagues by clicking here.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.