I don’t know another way to say it. I love my job and I love the humans I care for and the humans I work with and I am so frustrated with the system I work in that I want to poke my eye out with a fork.
I’ve been a nurse for over 15 years and every year at this time I come to the same conclusion, I am burned out. My nurse colleagues are burned out. My doctor colleagues are burned out. My social work colleagues are burned out. The healthcare leadership teams are burned out. Burnout makes us sad, sick, irritable and in no mood to celebrate the holidays. Christmas cheer? Stuff it in the shredder so I don’t have to deal with it. Read one more memo, support one more staffing change or listen to your strategic vision again? Let me get you a great big warm cup of “piss off”. I don’t let my inside voice get outside my body, just so you know.
I shield patients from our collective burnout because the evidence tells us, they notice and we can make them sicker if we are burned out. I cannot let them get sick on my watch. But, I let myself get drained, angry and feel heaps of shame because I couldn’t be my most effective nurse-leader self. I preferred to take it out on the higher ups. Send some scathing tweets to our political and healthcare leaders and generally ask a lot of direct questions that serve to make them think so hard they forget to respond. Or maybe they were just scared of the question…..
In my house, we’ve got double the burnout.
My wife is a doctor. We have so much burnout in our house, our boys have been able to say that word since their first birthday and I swear they think it’s an actual feeling. We talk about it like it is: “I’m getting burned out” “I tired of being burned out” “That &^%$# &&^%* is making me burned out!” “I am so burned out”. The last time my wife said this, my youngest brought her a glass of water because he thought she was having another hot flash. Seriously, burnout in our house has been a big deal. It’s made us crappy moms, mean partners, frustrated healthcare workers, absentee friends, physically sore and mentally unwell. We are still married because humour is transformative and transcendent when used appropriately. Meaning: we laugh at each other a lot.
However, this year has been different.
Using love-led leadership’s characteristics of empathy and humility, I acknowledged that my burnout is partially due to silencing and stuffing down my personal and professional leadership style, love-led leadership. Since developing the definition and its characteristics, I have been intentionally engaging myself and others using it as the lens through which I make all my decisions and interactions and I have gotten to the end of this year and I am NOT BURNED OUT. Love-led leadership has been my balm for burnout. I’m not worrying about what “they” think about my caring nature and relational, values-based leadership and that has stripped away the pull to do more and be more as well as the pressure to stay small. What a &^%#$ relief. Fifteen + years of nursing and this is my first year of not feeling burnout.
If you are burned out, I am sure you are either hiding your face or wanting to hit me in the head for unmasking you. Good. It is time for us to take off the armour that keeps us from admitting how hard it is and what kind of a toll burnout takes on us personally and professionally. In the next few posts, I’m going to unpack the six characteristics of love-led leadership, share a few strategies that helped me begin to engage in love-led leadership and walk you through how my burnout started to reduce. My wife says I can share her journey as long as I don’t make fun of her.
Also, stay tuned for the call out for global love-led leaders….it is coming.
I am a love-led leader, an inspirational mentor and coach with exceptional communication skills. I am a strategic leader and systems thinker with a proven ability to be successful in change management, team facilitation, project development and management. I am currently working in Primary Care as a full scope RN and am a professor at Fleming College. I am the President of RNAOs Primary Care Nurses of Ontario Interest Group, Co-Founder and Chair of the Peterborough & County LGBTQ Task Force.