Managing Stress + Burnout Through the Pandemic

While managing the COVID-19 global pandemic has been challenging for everyone, APRNs on the frontlines of the pandemic are particularly prone to feeling its effects. In addition to exposing themselves and potentially family members to an increased risk of the disease, APRNs have often been faced with a disruption to the scope of practice, and many are feeling significant emotional distress and stress from it all. 

As frontline providers, many hospital-based APRNs have had to shift focus from their area of specialization to providing acute care for patients diagnosed with the virus, while at the same time, many primary care clinics have seen dramatic decreases in patients, if they are open at all.

There also is emerging evidence that frontline healthcare workers are experiencing significant emotional distress as a result of providing direct patient care during this pandemic. And while the rollout of the vaccine has many believing there might be a “light at the end of the tunnel”, past research on the mental health of frontline health care workers providing care during pandemics has shown significant mental health effects that lasted for up to 12 months after the end of the event.

Characterized by feelings of exhaustion, disengagement from one’s job, and a sense of diminished professional fulfillment, burnout is considered the result of chronic work stress that the individual is not able to manage. It is not a surprise then that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased work stress among an already strained APRN profession, putting their mental health and well-being at risk.

It is crucial that APRNs recognize the warning signs associated with burnout and stress, and take steps to mitigate them. Within the workplace, APRNs should take advantage of opportunities to discuss with others the stress they are experiencing, support one another, and make suggestions for workplace adaptations during this pandemic. 


Personally, APRNs should take steps to manage stress and burnout just as seriously as they do their physical health. Here are a few tips to help:


  • Understand that you will have reactions such as anxiety, stress, or grief, to the increased and persistent stressors and potential trauma you are encountering. 
  • Exercise self-compassion – almost everyone impacted by an emergency will experience psychological distress. 
  • Acknowledge that experiencing excessive stress or other mental health impacts during this time is not a sign of weakness. 
  • Give yourself permission to schedule even a few moments for self-care each day. 
  • Be aware that help is available if symptoms you are experiencing impact your ability to provide care to your patients and your family in the same way you did before the pandemic. 
  • Connect with your purpose: Acknowledge the crucial and noble work you are doing. 
  • Create ongoing supportive connections with your colleagues to help validate and normalize your experiences.

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