Burn Out? Me?


I finally got my wish – – this week is FINALLY over. It’s been extreme non-stop GO since Monday morning and I honestly thought it would never end.

I hate to keep harping on the death thing. What a macabre topic to be discussing in a blog, hey? I mean – blogs are supposed to be fun, aren’t they? Well – I’m not always about fun – – believe it or not 😉 And where better to vent, than here?

In September 2002 I made a decision that greatly changed my life. I made the career change from Health Care Administration to Home Hospice Nursing. I’ve never looked back – and I’ve never regretted it. At the young age of 35, I believe I have found the nook that I’ll spend the rest of my nursing career in.

At little me info before I proceed. I’m a pretty down to earth kinda gal. I am not the dramatic type, I don’t over-react to situations, I’m grace under fire and I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m able to take a pretty objective look at most circumstances and keep my head where it needs to be. I rarely ‘fall apart’ and refuse to participate (as much as possible) in the practice of crisis management – – opting for a more proactive approach, more often than not. I like things clean, cut and dry. I don’t believe there is a situation that cannot be handled sanely, if given enough thought and preparation.

Usually, when faced with crisis – I withdraw. I think. I plan. Then I act. I’m generally pretty quiet about it and don’t make a whole lot of fuss. Interestingly enough, I’ve had a boss or two in the past who mistook my quiet approach as apathy. They complained that they could never ‘read me’ – – they could never gage my reaction to certain situations. Under circumstances where they are running around like a madman/woman – I’m usually the one quietly taking notes, observing, thinking things through – – then while they are making lots of noise about things – – I take care of it before they are even done with their rant. Funny – while they would complain that my reactions seemed apathetic – they almost always failed to recognize that the situation and issues were always resolved, timely.

I know what I need to do, and I just do it without a whole lot of fanfare. I don’t involve myself with office politics, gossip and water cooler chit chat. I don’t find much to bitch about regarding the job that I receive a decent salary for. I don’t fret and worry over things over which I have no control over.

Not that any of that has much to do with anything I’m about to say now – – it’s just a little peek at my personality. Overall, I’m not the ‘burn out’ type.

A single mother for almost all of my adult life (at least the last 13 years of it) – I’ve needed to be all things to all people…fill all of the roles, shoulder all of the responsibility. Truth be told, there’s just no time afforded for any kind of burn out. An abusive marriage, Divorce, Custody issues followed by putting myself through nursing school while working and raising two babies — well, if I can handle all that – there’s really nothing I can face in life that I won’t be able to handle, I think.

When I first started in Hospice – I was warned by my supervisors and co-workers that Hospice has the highest rate of burn out than most areas of nursing. I smiled and acknowledged their warnings – – but I knew better, didn’t I? I’m not the burn out type. I can keep an objective view of most all things. I view Hospice as a privilege – rather than a paycheck. The day we are born and the day we die are the most important days in our lives….I find it an incredible honor to be able to assist and help with how someone leaves this world. I don’t look at Hospice as all about death – – it’s about living, too. The family, friends, loved ones. . . it’s as much about making the experience as comfortable and meaningful as possible. That 5 year old girl will probably forever remember the night her father died — and I hope like hell that her memories are positive ones, as much as they can be.

I ‘pooh-pooh’d’ the very notion of burn out.

That’ll show me for being so sassy about it. Imagining myself above the very idea of burn out. I’m made of steel, right?


Not saying that I’m burned out – – because I’ve seen burnt out nurses, and I’m no where near it. However, I can say that I’m feeling the stress. The emotional fatigue I’ve been feeling as of late is something that’s new for me – something I haven’t experienced since I started working in Hospice

Maybe I’m not really at risk for the burn out thing — maybe I’ve just had a really hard week with some really hard deaths? The deaths this week have all been so highly emotional for everyone.

The 5 year old really affected me. I have thought about her three dozen times each day, since it happened. I can’t get her little face out of my mind. Do I need to worry about this? Am I approaching a point where I’m hitting my limit?

Do I need a break? Or maybe just a vacation? Don’t get me wrong, here – I do love my job. The work is incredibly rewarding on so many different levels – I can’t even begin to describe how. I’ve never been more professionally settled in my career and the thought of redirecting my focus elsewhere isn’t an option for me. I do love Hospice care and believe I’m settled in this line of work for as long as they’ll have me. I think I just need to find a new way to deal with weeks like this.

This week has just been exceptional. 8-10 hours of raw emotion day in and day out for the entire week is taking it’s toll. I mean, look – it’s 2 a.m. in the morning on a Friday (umm..Saturday) – and here I am blogging about it, still trying to get it out of my system.

I was in a meeting today. It was a conference call with the corporate office. They have spent the last 3-4 months doing a focused ‘market study’ in our region (Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois) – the result of their market study is something that I fear, a great deal.

An aside — for whatever reason, I find the concept of a ‘market study’ about death to be distasteful and it offends my sensibilities. I know it’s business and in order to provide the service, they need to make a profit . . . but still. . .

Anyways – back to the fear issue. They informed us that over the next year – the focus and goal for our region is to expand our services into the area of Pediatric Home Hospice.

I think I physically recoiled when I heard those words. I need to think about my feelings on this before I vent on it further. I’ll save it for another vent later on.

At the end of the day – I’m thrilled to death that it’s Friday and I am not on call this weekend. I left the office today at 4:30, got into my car – – loaded Metallica’s “Black Album” into my CD player and cranked it as high as it would go.

The corporate office has their lofty goals – – my goal, at 4:30, was to beat thoughts of my work week outta my head.

On a lighter note – Chris and I went out to dinner tonight to our favorite place. At about 7 tonight – he’d had it with his work, too. His week has been just as horrendous – – on a totally different level, but just as valid. He looked at me and said, “I’m hopping in the shower – then I’m getting dressed. Then I’m taking my baby out for dinner and a drink or two, or three – so get ready, and NO work talk!”

It was heaven. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Burn Out? Me?”

  1. Work work work! It was a very looooooong week. The going out to dinner seems like a perfect way to put it all behind you – – at least for a bit. Glad you had fun! 🙂

  2. I’m just glad you got away from it for awhile. If you weren’t as strong as you were, you would’ve cracked already. I think that’s a testament to the kind of person you are 😉

  3. Don’t worry your purdy red head Lisa. You give a damn, you work hard, and you had a tough week. Sounds like your weekend got off to the right start. Be totally selfish the rest of the weekend and do whatever you feel like doing – and don’t you dare do anything responsible!

  4. Nothing macabre about death.Some nurses dealing with the terminally ill (my own included) seem to get some help from my blog. It least it lightens them up a bit. Look for the piece on Macmillan nurses (UK) Still odn’t know how you guys do it.

  5. Pingback: 5 Years, and counting — Lisa Sabin-Wilson

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