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A new year brings a bounty of new opportunities for nurse practitioners (NPs) to learn, grow and provide exceptional person-centered care. However, many NPs may have not fully recovered from the challenges and exhaustion they endured in 2023. How does one thread the needle between advancing professional goals — and maintaining a healthy personal life as a friend, parent, spouse, etc. — all while avoiding the ever-present threat of burnout?
In order to help you and your fellow NPs start the year off on the right foot, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) spoke to Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, on the latest episode of NP Pulse: The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®. In her wide-ranging discussion with host Sophia Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, Melnyk shared her stories of resilience in the face of trauma and her passion for the NP role. Read on to gain some new year’s inspiration from Melnyk and discover how AANP can benefit you in 2024.
Dr. Melnyk is known for her numerous appearances in media; her work as a published author and advocate for evidence-based practice; and as a member of the United States Preventive Services Task Force. As the chief wellness officer and vice president for health promotion at The Ohio State University, Melnyk has seen how burnout manifests and interferes with a provider’s ability to care for their patients, as well as themselves. But how does one define burnout to begin with?
“Burnout results from chronic stress or overload at work. So, it manifests itself in three particular areas,” Melnyk explains. “One: it has sustained feelings of exhaustion — physical, mental, emotional. It has professional inefficiency — you start to feel not so productive or competent. Lastly, there is detachment from your work mentally — you start to get cynical or negative about your work.” Regardless of how you define burnout in your life, Melnyk encourages all NPs to take a minute and perform their own wellness check. “Please self-reflect right now using your own definition of burnout. How burnt out are you? If your burnout is starting to interfere with your judgment, your productivity, your functioning, then it’s time to get help.”
Late last year, Melnyk joined various other NPs to discuss the impacts of burnout on nurses for PBS News Hour. During the program, Melnyk stressed the importance of treating NP burnout for the wellness of both patient and provider alike. “It is absolutely urgent. My studies have shown, the more depressed and burnt out you are, the more preventable medical errors that are made. So not only is it unhealthy for our population, but it adversely impacts health care quality and patient safety.”
Speaking with Dr. Thomas on NP Pulse, she reiterated a key phrase from her PBS appearance — it’s a necessity, not a nicety. “It’s not a weakness when we need to get help. […] It’s not selfish to portion out times during our week to still engage in things that bring us joy and participate in healthy lifestyle behaviors. It’s a necessity, not a nicety.” Make self-care a part of your daily life — consider incorporating evidence-based mindfulness and stress management skills into your routine to build mental resiliency against burnout.
In order to prevent burnout, Melnyk suggests “we’ve got to build mental resiliency, along with fixing systemic issues, building a culture of well-being where people feel cared about, appreciated and feel they matter to their organization.” Thankfully, AANP offers a host of opportunities to connect you with your NP community, share powerful NP stories and support your professional goals.
As you look ahead to how you’ll care for yourself and your patients in 2024, consider the ways in which your NP organization can benefit you on your journey:
Want to hear more from Dr. Melnyk? Listen to the latest episode of NP Pulse to find out how one’s emotions affect one’s work, their colleagues and all those around them. If emotions are contagious, as Dr. Melynk believes, be prepared to catch joy and feel grateful along with our guest.