12 Factors That Fuel A Nurse’s Burnout

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

What are the deadly dozen circumstances and characteristics that can lead to burnout and empathy fatigue? Check which statements ring true for you, and if you’re nodding at every statement on the list below, please seek support (or at the very least, do a little soul searching).

1. Toxic supervisor and lack of colleague support

2. Little fun at work or in life

3. Only a fuzzy understanding of one’s own needs

4. Lack of a professional process to turn create more competence and less anxiety

5. Emotionally draining issues in one’s personal life

6. An inability to say no to unreasonable requests

7. Vicarious traumatization that takes an accumulated toll

8. Personal relationships characterized by one-way caring (you give, everyone else takes)

9. Constant perfectionism in work tasks

10. Continual unresolved ambiguous professional losses

11. A strong need to be needed

12. Professional success defined solely by outward recognition or appreciation

How did we do?  What did we get right and more importantly what did we completely forget to include?  Welcome your thoughts and suggestions on dealing with burnout in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. What burned me out in my last nursing job, love the one I have now, was the change that occurred when we became a for profit place rather than a non profit. I worked in dialysis, and before I felt I was an advocate for the patient. We treated them as if they were terminally ill, and they are, but once the other company bought us….it all changed. It was about money nothing but money. No more blankets for the patients. Anyone who even slightly exhibited renal failure was put on, I mean 89 year old 90 lb women with dementia….and you know the family will not sign them off, but they cry each time I put them on the machine. But it was another patient to bring in business. Not enough RN’s because we cost too much, so I had call all the time. My final straw story was 11.5 hours on the floor, 45 minutes home and called to the ICU where I ran a drug overdose (any renal nurse knows what that means, they do not have renal failure so they are hard to keep balanced and you run them till the drug is gone, which is hours)…I ran her till 6am, I called my supervisor to say I had been in the ICU all night, she said she had no nurse to open the unit, so I went under the condition she find someone….2pm I am still on the floor, and doing charge, checking others work! I went to her, she was in a back office doing admin things, and said “look you are an RN you have to go to the floor, I am unsafe, I am not going to risk the patient’s lives or my license for this place. You have to go work the floor because I am going to leave”…now truth be told I would not have left without someone there, but she came out and I left. I fell asleep driving 20 minutes to home, twice, hitting the gravel that woke me. I sat in my driveway and cried, and thought why do I care for them so much, they sure don’t care about me. I began my job search the next day, 18 years later I have never regretted it. Burnout comes in many forms, when you feel like a money machine, you feel abused and used, and when you no longer feel you are doing what you set out to do as a nurse…care for patients and do your best for them.

    • Excellent and heartbreaking post Iora. You stayed and worked because you care, but recognized that no one can do that job, that many hours. You deserve more and your patients deserve more. I’m afraid as long as healthcare is for profit only, our patients will be seen as numbers and nurses literally the “patient pushers.”

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