Life as a nurse practitioner inevitably trends towards the stressful and often down the path to burnout. Throughout my career as a nurse practitioner, I’ve experienced seasons of intense stress and seasons with less, but overall, my my initial years of practice were marked with anxiety, the weight of career-related pressures, fatigue, and intermittent burnout. Until now.

Over the past two years, I have began to take my career as an emergency department nurse practitioner in stride. I continue to take my job very seriously, but have learned to manage the stressors that come along with it. Sure there are intense moments in the ED and shifts that standout as ‘bad days’. This will always be the case. But, overall, I can now say that I’m not stressed out at work.

If your job is stressing you out, the steps I took to de-stressing may also help you reach nurse practitioner career Zen.

Step 1: Identify your career stressors

The first step to reducing stress as a nurse practitioner is to identify the aspects of your job that lead you to feel overwhelmed. On a sheet of paper, write down each and every cause that comes to mind. Perhaps your employer expects you to see four patients per hour and you can’t keep up with the pace. Maybe administrative duties are keeping you at the clinic after hours. Or, perhaps the negative attitudes of coworkers are getting you down. Create a list so you can evaluate each of these issues.

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Step 2: Classify your list

Recognizing that there are aspects of your job within your control and others outside of your control is the key to stress reduction. Classify your list of stressors based on things you can change and those you cannot. Attitudes of coworkers and administrators for example, may fall outside of your direct control. Pressures placed on your practice as a result of healthcare reform are also outside of your circle of influence. How does your list shake out?

Step 3: Analyze your attitude

While many job-related stressors are outside of your circle of influence, your attitude toward them is not. Approaching undesirable tasks with humor, or at least a positive perspective, keeps you from falling into a pit of negativity. 

Step 4: Change the things you can

Focusing on stressors you cannot change saps your energy. Stop. Instead, develop creative and collaborative approaches to changing stressors within your control. If you are a new nurse practitioner, for example, inexperience can be challenging to work through. Set goals for your improvement so you can measure small successes on your path to eliminating this stressor. If scheduling or expectations placed on you are at the root of the problem, set up a time to review these issues with your boss.  

Worrying about issues you cannot influence is a waste of your time and mental energy. Rather, direct your attention towards the parts of your practice that you can change. This will give you a better sense of achievement, allow you to maximize your time and mental resources to their fullest potential, and ultimately lead to greater satisfaction with your nurse practitioner career. 


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