A pathway to a healthier you

Burnout: chronic work-related stress

Burnout is a state of physical or mental collapse caused by work-related stress. While stress is situational, burnout is usually caused by repeated or prolonged stress or frustration.  

While the experience is unique to you, signs that you are burned out may include a lack of motivation, performance, identity and enthusiasm. 

Higher levels in nursing and midwifery 

If you think you may be at risk or experiencing burnout, you’re not alone. Compared to other health professionals, nurses and midwives are disproportionately impacted by burnout due to the nature of the work. In particular, we experience time pressures, lack of control over work tasks, shift work, lack of support and moral injury/distress (World Health Organization, 2018) 

Signs and symptoms 

Common indicators that you may be experiencing burnout include: 

  • constant exhaustion
  • social withdrawal. 
  • cynicism
  • loss of enthusiasm or even a sense of panic
  • dread or anxiety about going to work
  • compassion fatigue or lack of empathy for patients.

You may notice changes in your sleep patterns and appetite, frequent headaches, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, muscle tension, low immunity and hence frequent illness. 

More worrying health concerns include increased blood pressure, palpitations, increased shortness of breath and gastrointestinal upset. 

An indicator that you are experiencing burnout may be that you are taking more sick leave or have become withdrawn at work.  

Your family, friends and colleagues may notice changes in yourself before you do. Be open to their concerns. Reflect on whether you’re feeling different or some of your behaviours have changed. 

Factors that increase our risk of burning out

Our susceptibility to burnout is increased if we:

  • tend to self-criticise
  • work and life is imbalanced, 
  • have inadequate outside support systems
  • are idealistic or perfectionists
  • expect unrealistic things of ourselves 
  • over commit
  • sleep poorly
  • use unhealthy methods to cope with stress.  

Healthy workplaces to help prevent burnout 

Burnout is an occupational issue. Employers and managers must commit to delivering safe, healthy and caring workplaces. There are, however, some things you can do to protect yourself.  

It’s important to remember that burnout is both preventable and curable. The earlier you seek support, the better the outcome for you. If you think you may be experiencing burnout, consider accessing some support – reach out to us

Stressed and stretched?

Can't stop but struggle to keep going? Talk to us about avoiding burnout.

Preventing burnout – try these

Try these strategies to help prevent burnout: 

  • Set boundaries; learn how to say ‘no’  
  • Rest and sleep enough
  • Talk to friends or family about how you feel 
  • Leave your work at work – physically and mentally
  • Take your breaks at work
  • Set realistic expectations 
  • Focus on what you’ve achieved not what you didn’t do
  • Exercise – find something you enjoy and do it regularly.  
  • Reflect on your work and workplace culture – are you where you want to be? 
  • Take some time out to take stock, have a rest or holiday
  • Review your work/life balance

During Australia’s first wave of COVID, 35% of nurses reported at least one symptom of burnout. [Edith Cowan University, 20] 

The Australian Primary Nurses Association annual survey found: (42%) say they experience burnout sometimes, 27% saying they feel burnt out very often and 10% saying they always feel burnt out at work.[2021] 

Almost 70% of Australian nurses are grappling with fatigue and burnout. [Australian College of Nursing and the Health Professionals Bank survey, 2022] 

When I experienced burnout as a result of my work, I didn’t have the language to describe what I was feeling and name it as burnout. I just knew that I wasn’t OK.
Mark Aitken


Nurses need to have decent safe conditions at work and that includes mental health support, they must feel valued and recognised that they do make a difference
International Council of Nurses CEO Howard Catton

Make a self-care plan

Take a few minutes to complete a short survey and develop your own plan to monitor and focus on your health and wellbeing.  NMHPV toolkit: self-care plan