Nurses deal with a lot of pressure at work, thanks to their many job responsibilities. In addition, they may have family and personal obligations to handle as well. The net effect, given the demands of patient care, is often burnout.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a condition brought on by feeling overwhelmed physically, mentally and emotionally. Typically, burnout in nursing is caused by working in a stressful environment for a prolonged period of time. Other factors that can contribute to burnout include:
- Patient deaths
- Difficult patients
- Heavy workloads
- Long shifts
- Uncooperative team members
What Are the Common Symptoms of Burnout?
Burnout manifests differently for everyone. The following are common burnout symptoms for nurses:
- Resistance to change
What Effect Does Nurse Burnout Have on Patients?
Healthcare Staff Wellbeing, Burnout, and Patient Safety: A Systematic Review links burnout in healthcare professionals with the quality of patient care.
Furthermore, The Relationship Between Professional Burnout and Quality and Safety in Healthcare: A Meta-Analysis found that burnout is associated with medical errors, lower safety standards, decrease in patient satisfaction and poor outcomes.
What Are Five Solutions to Nurse Burnout?
Unfortunately, it's often too late to intervene when nurses leave their jobs or become severely depressed from burnout, but there are solutions. Here are five ways to address nurse burnout.
- Early Intervention - One way to safeguard against nurse burnout is to know the symptoms and intervene early. Nurse leaders and employers can conduct training sessions for nurses to educate them about mindfulness and resilience. Providing training on how to spot symptoms of burnout in themselves and co-workers can also help.
- Provide Assistance Programs - Nurses should have places they can go for counseling so they can learn how to manage stress and reduce anxiety. Healthcare systems should provide nurses with support groups and therapy or direct them to self-care programs.
- Support Resilience - Taking steps to build resilience can help nurse leaders lower the risk for burnout in their staff. The Joint Commission's advisory on developing resilience to combat nurse burnout defines resilience as the "process of personal protection from burnout." They urge nurse leaders to evaluate burnout and its causes so they can make adjustments and examine improvements.
- Promote Wellness - Healthcare systems can implement wellness initiatives in the workplace through exercise programs and the distribution of healthy foods and snacks. Also, nurses should be encouraged to seek counseling, take breaks and schedule time off.
- Adapt Behavior - Nurses can lessen the effects of job stress by setting boundaries. They can do this by keeping their professional and personal lives separate and avoid worrying about work while off duty. Prioritizing self-care and relaxation outside of work can also help offset the stress of nursing jobs.
As the role of RNs evolves in response to healthcare technology and policy developments, the chance of burnout is only likely to increase. It is important for RNs, nurse leaders and employers to stay vigilant to the warning signs so they can take corrective measures in a timely manner. Most importantly, nurses need to be comfortable seeking help when they need it.
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