Nurse Burnout Warrior: Anna Rodriguez
Anna Rodriguez is a critical care nurse currently living in Washington state with her husband and their corgi, Walter. In her 10th year of working as a nurse, she’s gained experience in various clinical specialties and roles: Medical/Surgical, Telemetry, Cardiovascular ICU, Nursing Management, travel nursing, and float pool. You name it, she’s probably done it. And yes, she’s definitely experienced nurse burnout.
She is a burnout survivor and recently started a blog, The Burnout Book, to help fellow nurses recover from their own burnout experiences and become resilient for long and fulfilling nursing careers. And that’s something we can get behind. So when Anna’s name came out of the hat for our Modern Nurse Giveaway, and we learned about her passion, we wanted to find out more about her.
The Path to Fighting Nurse Burnout
What was your first experience with nursing? What influence did this have on your decision to become a nurse?
The idea of being a nurse was introduced to me by one of my best friends growing up. Her mom is a CNA, her sister is a nurse, and she’d share stories about the work they did. We had this master plan where we’d open up a pediatric office and play with kids all day while one of us (usually me) cleaned up the occasional vomit.
We both ended up as nurses, but we both discovered we preferred working with adults! I also did some volunteer patient transport (wheeling patients around the hospital in a wheelchair or bed) at a nearby hospital on Saturdays while I was in high school to make sure I wanted to go into the medical field. I was able to get into a nursing program right out of high school, so I jumped at the opportunity! And I’m so glad I did, nursing has been a great fit for me.
What made you decide to launch your blog about nursing burnout?
I was at a nursing conference in Houston, TX last year, and in the midst of attending classes and thinking about my long term nursing goals, I realized that I wanted to tap into my creative side and start a blog about something that I was passionate about. During my two years as a nurse manager, I witnessed quite a few nurses experience various degrees of burnout, and I went through my own burnout experience.
There are so many of us who don’t realize we’re burned out until it's already happening -- whether that be burnout warning signs, symptoms of burnout, and finally, burnout syndrome -- and by then we’re thinking of leaving the profession all together! My blog’s mission is to support nurses and provide resources to decrease and prevent burnout and create a community of other nurses they can relate to. Early identification is key, and finding ways to manage the stress that comes with being a nurse is so important.
Being a nurse takes an immense physical, mental, and emotional toll on you after a while, whether it be the long hours or the stressful environment. While this is also the case for other healthcare professionals as well, nurses feel exposed to a higher risk of cases of burnout given their positions on the front lines of hospitals. If we know what to look for and respond to, we can catch these challenges earlier on to prevent many nurses from turning away from the profession and enjoying a higher quality of life.
We’ve talked a lot about building a personal and professional brand as a nursing professional- What’s your take on this? How do you do this yourself?
My approach to nursing is pretty simple. We work with people who are at their worst moments, and if I can help ease some of the avoidable pain and suffering, then I feel like I’m doing my job. I focus on being the best nurse I can be, always being a team player, and leading by example.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What gives you energy?
Having a dog who needs to be let outside is one way I’m forced to get up every day! But really, I’m more of a morning person than anything, so it’s usually not a struggle. I do feel more energy when I’m taking care of myself though- eating well, exercising, taking my vitamins, drinking enough water, and getting some SUN!
I’m working night shift in the Pacific Northwest in the Winter (the trifecta!), and I’ve noticed a big difference in my mood and overall health. If I’m taking my vitamin D supplements, using a therapy light, and getting outside when possible, I can get by till summer.
My advice would be to take the initiative to learn outside of work. You can’t expect to learn everything you’re supposed to by simply showing up to work.
What do you most enjoy about nursing?
I enjoy the mix of continuous learning, critical thinking, and practicing awesome skills, all while caring for others and changing lives. A solid combination of compassion, creativity, and science!
What do you think is the most difficult part of being a nurse? What advice do you give people with similar difficulties?
The hardest part about being a nurse is getting through the first couple years, in my opinion! There’s this steep learning curve where you need to figure out time management, communication skills with patients and the medical team, learn about new medications and what they do, figure out how to chart it all!
My advice would be to take the initiative to learn outside of work. You can’t expect to learn everything you’re supposed to know by simply showing up to work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot you learn by just being a sponge and absorbing it all, but you need to be able to learn from those experiences and build on them to become a competent nurse!
Try to be patient with yourself, everything comes with practice. Try not to sabotage yourself by practicing the wrong thing over and over, though. Try and find people around you who you admire and copy what they do! Once you have a good system down, then you can modify it and make it your own.
Do you think it’s important to identify with other aspects of life in addition to “nurse” or “nursing?"
Absolutely! I’m only a nurse 3 days a week, so during the other 4 days, I get to be and do whatever I want! I spent two years skating with a roller derby team, I’ve made wedding cakes for friends, I find opportunities to volunteer in the community, and I love being a nurse blogger. I enjoy spending my days off with my husband, doing yoga, going on walks with my corgi, and planning our next vacation. I love that I’m a nurse, and I love that nursing accommodates the lifestyle I want.
What do you wish the world knew about nursing?
Once you discover someone is a nurse, they don’t necessarily need to hear about the strange medical conditions that you have. The answer is going to be, “you should probably go check with your doctor.” ;)
What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? What about for your nursing career?
At the heart of it, I don’t see much changing for nursing- the general public (those baby boomers!) will need nurses and the whole healthcare team to get them through those golden years. There will continue being changes at a government and national level that will trickle down into our workflow- hoops to jump through, checkboxes to check, and surveys to satisfy. It’s just the direction it’s going.
I can say nursing isn’t what it was 10 years ago, but I think of the things we’re now able to do to help patients! We can retrieve or dissolve life-threatening clots from the brain! We’re keeping people alive until they can get an organ they desperately need. With all the DNA mapping going on, we can personalize patient care on the genetic level.
The future I dream of will include standardized safe patient ratios nationwide. It’ll include zero tolerance for workplace violence or bullying with mutual respect between all healthcare workers. It will include an emphasis on preventative care, and we’ll see more health coaches in the community. A world of teamwork and communication and excellent patient outcomes, that’s my dream.
For my personal nursing career, I know I won’t be at the bedside forever. I can see myself transitioning to nursing education at some point, and I would love to continue to help other nurses through the blog and social media to work through their own burnout struggles. I’ll keep following my passion and see where it takes me!
And finally, some fun questions!
- My work mornings usually start with: a hot shower and listening to music to wake up and feel energetic. My favorite Pandora stations are 60s Oldies Radio or The Killers.
- Go-to meal that I pack for work: Soup, an English muffin, a banana or apple, yogurt. Nine times out of ten, I’m eating soup. I work night shift currently and the only things that sound good at 0200 are breakfast foods and soup.
- Favorite thing to do on a day-off: Start the morning by listening to The Daily (news podcast) with my husband and make a real breakfast with waffles, bacon, and eggs! Do some yoga. Then get outside with my husband and our corgi pup and go on an adventure!
- Favorite app: Instagram.
- Clogs or sneakers? Sneakers.
- If I wasn’t a nurse, I would probably be: In a bakery, frosting cupcakes, dipping strawberries in chocolate, and making swan cream puffs.
- Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither?: Compression socks!
- Puke, poop, sputum, IV starts in babies, we’ve all got our aversion, what’s yours?: uuuugggghhh. Sputum. For sure. It’s the noise that gets me, that sucking, slurping noise. *gag*
- Go-to choice of caffeine?: Chocolate. Or chai tea.
For more on nurse burnout, check out our upcoming post focuses on the causes, statistics, and remedies, of burnout in the medical profession.