Viewpoint: Nurse martyrdom helps no one

The idea that nursing is not a career but a calling is "false and misleading" and may be an underlying cause of burnout and compassion fatigue in the field, Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, wrote in an opinion piece published on Daily Nurse.

Many nurses feel they must "sacrifice everything for patients, even their health and peace of mind." Although nurse martyrdom is not new, the label "helps no one."

"Martyrdom is a root cause of many nurses' experience of burnout and compassion fatigue," Mr. Carlson said. "We're not heroes, saints, or angels — we're human beings with the same flaws and problems as anyone else, and we have a job. While that job may often feel like a calling to many of us, no one should feel the need to insist that a calling should also be a yoke across our shoulders and a heavy cross to bear that can't be put down."

The nurse martyr may experience greater risks of resentment, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Mr. Carlson said that nurse martyrdom is "like self-imposed shackles" that should be thrown down.

"Even for those who feel that our occupation is a true calling, we can still practice diligent self-care, maintain firm boundaries, and recognize the equal importance of our needs," he said.

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