Why Everyone Should Care about Nurse Burnout: Recognition at the Frontline

A joint post by Stephanie Staples & Sarah McVanel

If you aren’t a nurse, have never been treated by a nurse or know for a fact that a nurse will never touch you or your family’s lives, you can stop reading now.

nurse hero painting on a building Are you still here? I sure hope so because according to our very rough calculations based on a 20-year career in healthcare, working 228 days a year, impacting only three patients a day, three of the patient’s family members and three people in their personal circles – we conservatively estimate that one nurse makes an impression on over 40,000 people during their career. We can almost guarantee you that the topic of the ‘well nurse’ will become important to you, or someone you love, in the not-so-distant future – if it hasn’t already.

Why Nurse Burnout Matters to Everyone

Would you like to have a nurse care for you that is on the verge of burnout?

Would you like to have a nurse who has compassion fatigue to care for your loved one? (And by the way, compassion fatigue can hit us all so for resources we’ve got you covered here & there!)

Would you like a nurse who is overwhelmed to be tending to critical needs?

nurse in scrub hat and maskWe know we wouldn’t. In fact, Steph has been that burnt-out nurse who felt guilty and anxious and frustrated and worried and questioned her every ability the more burnt out she became; nurses wouldn’t want their loved ones to be cared for by someone in burnout because they know the toll it takes in care. So…

We all need to ask the question, not just our healthcare system or hospitals or families with loved sick loved ones, what are we doing for our nurses? We all need a nurse – now, in the near future, in our lifetime – so we all have a vested interest starting today.

Oh, the Irony

cartoon of nurses in masks2020 was the ‘International Year of the Nurses’  but was it really? We think most nurses would say, ‘no’. Call it a matter of bad timing – who could have predicted a global pandemic in 2020 – nurses deserve a redo! And it’s unlikely to happen in 2021 (as Sarah writes this in wave three lockdown in Ontario and Steph is in B.C. with COVID numbers going the wrong way!)

It may not be a year for the nurse, however, it can still be a year that we celebrate and build up our nurses. In fact, it needs to be the year we celebrate and support them.

Did you know that every year, right around May 12th – the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, we celebrate nurses with nurses’ week? This is often an opportunity when healthcare organizations celebrate their nurses. We’d like to suggest, given how important nurses are in all of our lives, that we need to all take this opportunity to formally acknowledge the life-enhancing, life-saving, life-giving work that nurses do. Yes, we may have shouted and banged pots, yes, their employers may have brought in donuts but nurses are about done with the whole ‘hero’ thing – they just want support!

And healthcare organizations, if in past years you’ve put donuts in the cafeteria, that’s not going to be good enough this year. If you brought ice-cream bars around to the units, Infection Control rightly will be shooing you away from the communication station. And communal spaces for the sake of physical distancing isn’t possible. So what to do? Here are some ideas:

How You Can Celebrate Nurses Week?

  1. Post stories of the “real” nurse stories; newspapers, healthcare organizations, family members, share what it’s been like for nurses and create a call to action to call, text, or write the nurse you know to say thanks (tag a nurse if on social).
  2. Family members of those impacted by COVID, write a specific, personalized note of thanks and send it to the unit, public health unit, home care team that provided or are providing care; even better if someone is currently receiving care, write a note every day of about the great care you’re hearing is being provided and when your loved one is discharged send those notes to the unit(s).
  3. Be part of events that bring nurses together safe and virtually across the organization or even across the country, better yet North America, to be a community of nurses. Our event the Nurses Week Resiliency ReBoot is intended to do just that.
  4. Forward this post to a nurse you know and say “I so appreciate you and I get it’s tough…what is something I can do to support you?”

We all have an opportunity to celebrate our nurses and healthcare teams.

What have you done lately to show your appreciation? And how will this inspire you to elevate your appreciation game the next time you or a loved one receives care?

Nurses Week Resiliency Reboot

PS. – No time to plan an impactful nurses week celebrate with nurses week hot on our heels? This year we wanted to make things easier for everyone so we designed a live virtual learning experience designed to teach resiliency-building strategies that combat burnout in both the short and long term. Our goals: make it easy to access, cover all shifts, inclusive of nurses and everyone they work with, and all of the materials built for busy healthcare organizations to just invite nurses and that’s it. Want to celebrate with us? Reach out to us here.

Nurses Week with Sarah McVanel


Some Shocking Stats

Not fully convinced? According to the 2020 study by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), nurses report experiencing the following at some point in their career:

  • 81.7% – Critical Incident Stress
  • 63.2% – Symptoms of Burnout
  • 36.4% – Major Depression
  • 33% – Suicidal Ideation
  • 26.1% – Generalized Anxiety
  • 23% – Post Traumatic Stress

Don’t make them wait any longer. Who do you know that would benefit from a resiliency reboot? Please thank a healthcare provider and share the Nurses Week Resiliency ReBoot with a nurse or healthcare organization that is important to you.  🩺 ☀️ 🥾

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve