Nursing burnout is a sad reality prevailing in the healthcare industry each day. In February 2021, 47% of nurses in America requested to leave their jobs due to poor health and well-being. It was even worse during the pandemic when six out of ten health care workers reported adverse mental health effects.
Burnout affects nurses in many negative ways. Not only is it unhealthy for nurses, but it can also contribute to medical errors, as burnout makes them less efficient, resulting in poor quality of care for patients.
Before we discuss ways to prevent nurse burnout, it is essential to understand the causes of nurse burnout.
What causes nurse burnout?
Several factors contribute to nursing burnout, including:
- Intensive work shift with little or no rest: Nurses are required to work long shifts without rest. This can take a toll on their health, ultimately resulting in burnout.
- Working in a stressful environment: Nursing involves constantly dealing with stressful situations, particularly for intensive care nurses.
- A shortage of nursing staff: A recent survey of hospital respondents predicted 83% nursing staff shortages. In light of this shortage, current nurses face higher demands.
- Increasing patient-to-nurse ratio: More patients per nurse increases the likelihood of nurse burnout. A study found that a high nurse-to-patient ratio was associated with medical errors.
- Lack of or poor sleep: Sleep deprivation can negatively impact health, leading to burnout. According to research, 67% of nurses report experiencing sleep problems, particularly during the pandemic.
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Coming back to the main issue, leadership also has the power to prevent nurse burnout. Here are a few things they can do:
1. Identifying and addressing nurse concerns
Nurses can feel valued when leadership acknowledges, empathizes, and addresses their concerns. Leadership must encourage nurses to discuss their burnout concerns so they can be addressed openly.
A nurse’s concerns can be expressed via an internal online forum, one-on-one, or in team meetings. Hospital leaders can also use a shift feedback tool to detect early signs of burnout by asking nurses for feedback at the end of each shift.
For example, leaders should allow nurses to participate in decision-making, empowering them to express their concerns. As a result, nurses will voice their views about patient care, hospital cleanliness, hygiene standards, and policies.
According to research, nurses who are empowered to make decisions about their work and can freely voice their opinions are more committed, resulting in fewer burnouts.
2. Support the mental and physical well-being of nurses
The physical and mental well-being of nurses must be a priority for leaders.
It is possible to encourage employee well-being by organizing workout sessions with trainers, holding meditation sessions, implementing wellness programs, or organizing social events like birthday parties at work.
Hospitals can also host an event to thank nurses for their work, hospitality, and exemplary care. In it, they can introduce methods for improving medical professionals’ health, happiness, and efficiency.
Hospitals can also help nurses cope with pressure, anxiety, and fatigue by providing 24/7 psychological counseling support.
3. Take breaks and encourage nurses to do so
Employers may not be required to provide breaks by law, but leaders should ensure nurses do not overwork themselves. Taking breaks allows nurses to carry out their duties with greater care.
Encourage your nursing staff to take a quick break every two hours. If the breaks last less than twenty minutes, they qualify as paid breaks. However, to discourage a non-serious attitude, impose a fine on breaks longer than 30 minutes.
Restorative breaks ensure nurses receive the necessary breaks and shift the culture to make breaks mandatory. A research study found that 35% of nurses seldom or never rely on breaks, and nearly half have no idea how many breaks are allowed during a shift.
Management should use software that automates break administration so that nurses know when they get them and can avail of them.
4. Provide flexible hours
Provide nurses with flexible schedules so they can choose the shifts they would like to work. Burnout can be prevented by working on shifts they choose with coworkers they like or at times that are convenient for them.
Flexible scheduling is made simple with employee scheduling software that enables nurses to switch shifts at any time with management approval. Staff should not be assigned to long shifts exceeding 12 hours to reduce the likelihood of exhaustion-related injuries and infection.
More than 55% of nurses surveyed in a recent study reported being more satisfied with the work-life balance if they had more control over their schedules. Healthcare leaders must allow nurses to set their schedules to prevent nurse burnout.
5. Streamline workflows for nurses
Even though nurses are expected to focus on their core priorities, they don’t always do so. Burnout can occur when nurses perform too much work outside their area of expertise. Leaders need to optimize workflows so that nurses can focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses.
For example, a nurse may have too much administrative work, which may be counterproductive. Optimizing workflows will enable nurses to focus on their core duties and delegate the rest to the right people, preventing burnout. Implementing electronic health record systems can automate repetitive administrative tasks, allowing nurses to focus on patient care rather than administrative tasks.
6. Improving nurse-to-patient ratios
The more patients a nurse takes care of, the greater the risk of burnout. Leaders must strive to improve nurse-to-patient ratios to prevent burnout and benefit both patients and hospitals.
The more patients a nurse takes care of, the greater the risk of burnout. It would benefit both patients and hospitals if nurse-to-patient ratios could be improved to prevent burnout.
Additionally, this investment can reduce other negative impacts, such as a high nurse turnover rate, low satisfaction among patients, and substandard outcomes.
Nurse burnout is a challenge in the healthcare industry, resulting in various negative consequences.
Nurses who suffer from burnout are often those who work long shifts, are stressed at work, have high patient-to-nurse ratios, are understaffed, and are not getting enough sleep.
Leaders can prevent nurse burnout by following the practices mentioned in this article.