Burn out in the ER

by CapeCodMermaid, MSN, APRN, CNS

I always loved the ER from the very first day in 1996 when my preceptor told me not to worry, I would get the hang of having patients that were very ill from who knows what, had some unknown object in some weird oriface, or died and no one knew why. She was right, I did get the hang of it and stayed around for 10 years as a staff nurse, then charge nurse, then case manager and finally back to staff nurse.

Along the way, I had moments of fatigue, stress, the feeling that I just can’t go in there one more day, you know, the feelings all of us have once in awhile.

Was this burn out?

Hmmmm…had to do some thinking on that one.

So I toiled on and on and on and realized in 2002 that maybe I was aging – I was tired more, the night shift was getting busier or was I getting slower? What to do?

Well, since the hospital had gone on the Magnet journey and it appeared that an ADN grad wasn’t going anywhere up the food chain, I decided to head back to school.

After school, along a convoluted path, I ended up working part time in a community ER as an APN. How to put this delicately?

Most of the physicians enjoyed working with an APN. However, two physicians refused to work with me, even to the point of making disparaging remarks in front of me.


Am not sure even to this day except that they both seemed liked bitter people in general So…this didn’t help the feelings of added stress and fatigue which I once again felt. I have since gone prn at that position and you know what?

My stress and fatigue levels have decreased dramatically.

I’m not advocating quitting or even decreasing your hours when you are fried – you have to do what works for you. At this point, prn works to deal with the burn out for me. Who knows, maybe one day I will go back full-time to the ER, but for now, this solution is the best.

So…my question to everyone is: how do you deal with the added feelings of stress that we experience in the ER?

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