Office opening hours: 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday. Offices closed on Bank Holidays.
Home Menu Search

The Nursing Team - Health and Wellbeing: Stress and Burnout


“Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that their demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”.  In short, it’s what we feel when we think we have lost control of events.  The key concept here, is that it is an emotional and physical response to a thought process, and that other factors influence how we respond to demands placed upon us.

I’m sure we all know the symptoms, but it is worth taking a moment to reflect on some of the common features:

Here is a great little video by a Canadian doctor. It highlights the problems and brings out some of the key concepts in stress management.   "The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do for Stress"

Please take some time to watch the video, reflect on it and then watch it again!

The key points are that you can change your thinking style and how you react to the situations you find yourself in. But you might need to learn techniques to do this and new skills to break away from patterns of established thinking and behaviour.

Remember, if you can’t change the situation (too many patients, too much paperwork, not enough time etc.) then you can change how you respond to it.

Here are some resources for stress management:  


Ok, it’s time to get more serious now.  If the constant stress of work and life is leaving you feeling disillusioned, helpless and worn out then you may be suffering from burnout.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive demands and prolonged stress. It leaves you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful. Life loses its meaning and you may feel you have nothing left to give.  On the BMA website is a link to a questionnaire to rate your risk of burnout   Are you in danger of burn out?

Here are some common signs that you might be experiencing burnout:

Stages of Burnout

There are several different models but the stages are similar:

Honeymoon period

High energy, good satisfaction from trying to solve problems and make changes, you find the job interesting most of the time

Fuel starting to run low

Towards a crisis


Causes of Burnout

There are many causes of burnout, in many cases it stems from your job but can result from any situation where you feel overworked and undervalued. This may be a combination of work and home life. Other factors also contribute to risk of burnout, including lifestyle and personality traits.

Work related causes

Lifestyle causes

Personality traits

Preventing Burnout

There are lots of tips, books, websites out there with plenty of advice. Most involve some of the following and spending some time reflecting on how you can avoid burnout is never wasted, even if after reading the above you don’t feel it applies to you.

Recovering from burnout

If it’s too late, and after reading this it is clear to you that you need help, then you need to take your burnout very seriously. You can’t push through burnout and serious harm may come to you and your family if you do.

Step 1

SLOW DOWN. ­ You need to force yourself to slow down or take a break. Give yourself time to rest, reflect and heal.

Step 2

GET SUPPORT. ­ You need help. Share your true feelings, stop trying to deny the situation and talk to another person. Consider seeing your GP and perhaps book a double appointment, or contacting the RCN Counselling Service on 0345 772 6100

Step 3

RE-EVALUATE. ­ Burnout is a sign that something isn’t working in your life. Your task is to find out what and put it right. You may need help to do this.

Step 4

TAKE TIME OFF. ­ If burnout seems inevitable then you might need to take a complete break from work. This often seems impossible as we tend to put our responsibilities before our health. This of course is part of the problem! Take a holiday, ask for leave of absence, take a sabbatical or you might need to take sick leave. Unless you take a break you will not be able to find the solutions.

We worry what others will think if we “confess” to having problems and of course if we do we may have to speak to a colleague who knows us professionally as well as being their patient. However, it is really important to put those fears and inhibitions to one side and trust the professional judgements and decisions of others. The strong person is the one who recognises the problems and decides to take action positively to get a better life.

Ref: The Stress of Medicine  -  David Rainham

Useful Links and Publications

Help Guide -


QNI Support -  Talk To Us – The Queen's Nursing Institute ( The QNI offers a Listening Service, TalkToUs, to offer emotional support by phone to registered nurses working in the community.

About this page...

Updated on Thursday, 25 March 2021 703 views