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Burnout Syndrome in Nursing Students

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Burnout syndrome can be seen in students, staff, and other areas where individuals are simply too taxed by their jobs in order to perform effectively. This sample nursing paper explores burnout syndrome in nursing students and focuses on the effects that this syndrome has on medical staff.

Burnout syndrome in nursing students

Burnout syndrome is a form of exhaustion that is caused by stress. This exhaustion can be emotional, mental, and physical, and it can ultimately be very damaging to one’s health and spirit. Excessive and long-term stress can result in a feeling of being overwhelmed with one’s life and its constant demands. It can also lead to a loss of motivation and any interest to complete the tasks that are associated with the responsibilities and roles that have been taken.

This burnout syndrome is closely related to a working environment that is stressful and demanding, and it has only been recognized in the last decade or so.

While many professionals and students experience burnout syndrome, according to Polikandrioti, “studies have shown that nurses working in hospitals are at the highest risk of burnout” (2009, p. 195).

There are many reasons for this, including increased cost of tuition, the heavy workload, and the necessity of remaining strong and hardy while caring for patients. Before nurses even begin their career, they face another phase in their lives that may cause burnout syndrome: studying for college. Undergraduate nursing students are among the college students who are prone to experiencing burnout syndrome.

While stress among undergraduate nursing students is not exactly the same as the stress that working nurses experience, it is important to note the signs, symptoms, and possible treatment options for students who are going into the nursing field as different circumstances are involved.

Undergraduate nursing students begin to “adapt to a new lifestyle, possibly short after they graduate from high school, often starting to live alone, and assuming responsibilities such as studying, facing tests, practical classes and training programs” (Tomaschewski-Barlem, Lunardi, Ramos, Silveira, Barlem & Ernandes, 2013).

It is imperative to recognize and understand burnout syndrome in nursing students in order to adopt the necessary coping strategies.

Signs and symptoms of the burnout syndrome

The signs of burnout syndrome in undergraduate nursing students do not appear overnight. In fact, they usually require a buildup before they begin to surface. There are physical, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout syndrome. Physical signs of burnout syndrome include:

  • Feeling of being tired and drained
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in their appetite
  • Feel unwell with lowered immunity

Emotional signs of burnout among nursing students

Emotional signs of burnout among nursing students include a loss of motivation and a sense of self-doubt. They may also feel irritable and nervous as well as negative. Their emotional exhaustion can be apparent through their heavy workload of classes and other activities. Nursing students facing burnout will find it difficult to hand out with friends, dating while in college, or even working a job.

"Burnout syndrome surfaces in students in the form of physical and mental weariness, as they claim they have no time left to satisfy their personal needs” (Tomaschewski-Barlem et al., 2013).

Students may eventually feel defeated, detached, and trapped, and they may consider dropping classes or even leaving college altogether. Perhaps the biggest concern for nursing students who are experiencing burnout syndrome is the fact that they some get to the point where they simply do not care anymore. They may lose the sense of passion that they once had for a career in nursing.

For some students, “being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond the point of even caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations” (Preventing Burnout, n.d.).

This feeling of emptiness could be detrimental to their studies in the long run because they can experience decreased satisfaction from caring for others. Students experiencing burnout can also show behavioral symptoms as well. These signs can include procrastination, isolation, and withdrawal. They may begin to skip classes or arrive late. They may also resort to the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with the demands of nursing school.

Treatment options for nursing students facing burnout syndrome

Treatment for burnout syndrome in nursing students should be taken very seriously. Cutting corners in treatment and simply attempting to push through exhaustion may result in further damage. The first thing a student should do is slow down by resting. Part of the healing process is achieved through a great deal of rest and sleep, so a student who is burned out needs to cut back on activities wherever possible.

Undergraduate nursing students should rely on support from friends and family to help them manage their chronic depression. They can greatly benefit from simply sharing their feelings with another. Students can also adopt healthy eating and exercising habits to help them deal with the stress of their nursing studies. They can also remember that they are in control of their stress, and not the other way around.

Taking a daily break from technology can also help burnout syndrome in nursing students. Disconnecting from email, laptops, and cell phones can be a tremendously easy way to treat burnout syndrome. Instead of being attached to an electronic world much of the day, students can focus on their creative side. Writing, reading, painting, and drawing are all great ways to treat burnout syndrome and get in touch with emotions.

Orem’s theory of nursing

Burnout syndrome among nursing students can be directly related to Orem’s theory of nursing. Dorothea Orem formulated the theory that everyone has the ability for self-care. According to Orem’s theory, when a patient no longer has the ability to provide for themselves, they can rely on a nurse to assist them until they can care for themselves again. The key is to have the ability to maintain an adequate level of self-care instead of relying on a nurse for an undefined period of time.

According to Orem, “self-care comprises those activities performed independently by an individual to promote and maintain personal well-being throughout life” (Welcome to the AHNA: Self Care, 2013).

If an undergraduate nursing student cannot maintain a level of self-care that is adequate, it is entirely possible that they may not be able to adequately care for their patients. This is similar to the inhibiting factors of nurses who face compassion fatigue.

Also, if self-care involves a holism and an awareness of personal development and self-assessment, then nursing students should do whatever is in their power to heal themselves if they are experiencing burnout syndrome. Their self-care is of the utmost importance when it comes to their nursing studies and caring for future patients.

The signs of burnout syndrome among undergraduate nursing students may be subtle, but there are warning signs to watch out for. If burnout syndrome goes untreated, it can get worse with time. Paying attention to signs and symptoms can prevent a nursing student from eventually burning out to the point of total exhaustion, and then they can focus on learning to help others.


Polikandrioti, M. (2009). Burnout Syndrome. Health Science Journal, 3(4), 195-196.

Preventing Burnout. (n.d.). Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm

Tomaschewski-Barlem, Jamila Geri, Lunardi, Valéria Lerch, Ramos, Aline Marcelino, Silveira, Rosemary Silva da, Barlem, Edison Luiz Devos, & Ernandes, Carolina Mirapalheta. (2013). Signs and symptoms of the burnout syndrome among undergraduate nursing students. Texto & Contexto - Enfermagem. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-07072013000300023&lng=en&tlng=en. 10.1590/S0104-07072013000300023.

Welcome to the AHNA: Self Care. (2013). American Holistic Nurses Association. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.ahna.org/Membership/Member-Advantage/Self-care.



Ultius, Inc. "Burnout Syndrome in Nursing Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 09 Nov. 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/burnout-syndrome-in-nursing-students.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2014, November 09). Burnout Syndrome in Nursing Students. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/burnout-syndrome-in-nursing-students.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Burnout Syndrome in Nursing Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. November 09, 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/burnout-syndrome-in-nursing-students.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Burnout Syndrome in Nursing Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. November 09, 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/burnout-syndrome-in-nursing-students.html.

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