Welcome to this eye-opening article about nurse burnout.
After reading this article you will understand what nurse burnout is, its causes and effects, and how you can protect yourself against it, or how to handle it once you experience it.
We will cover the following topics in this article:
The covid-19 pandemic made it even worse for healthcare professionals because the influx of a great number of patients requiring direct care resulted in a huge percentage of nurses experiencing symptoms of burnout from work.
Let’s find out more below!
Nurse burnout is a state where the nurse experiences physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that is caused by work-related stressors like a pressured work environment, emergency decision-making, long hours of patient care, and the strain associated with caring for patients who have poor outcomes.
When these unmanaged stressors in the workplace are left without being addressed and this results in nurses feeling detached and disengaged.
These are considered the first warning signs of nurse burnout.
Due to the emotional exhaustion, the nurse will exhibit nursing burnout symptoms such as lack of motivation, feeling frustrated and failure to deliver as per job expectations.
Nurses who fail to address the burnout issues by considering self-care have fallen victim to hopelessness and even sunk into depression.
The World Health Organization characterizes burnout by:
- Feelings of cynicism regarding your career
- Constant inability to meet all the work requirements
- Depleted bandwidth when working resulting in total exhaustion
Unfortunately, nurse burnout affects millions of nurses whose mental health and physical well-being are questionable.
The Major Causes Of Nurse Burnout
Medical professionals especially nurses face a greater risk of burnout compared to other professionals according to research by the World Health Organization.
This is because there is a growing demand for nurses which has not been met yet thanks to the great percentage of the aging baby boomer generation and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases.
Here are more factors that cause nurse burnout:
The Bureau Of Labor Statistics projects that the job opportunities for registered nurses will grow by 12% by 2028.
This might be great news for nursing students who will soon join the nursing workforce but it is also a source of growing issues in the industry such as understaffed medical facilities, overworked and frustrated nurses, and worst of all nurse burnout.
This has led to a lack of adequate sleep for nurses because of the long hours and consecutive shifts.
Most nurses never get enough sleep between shifts because they need to meet the demand for patient care which requires long hours.
Long hours of working and inadequate sleep is currently the norm for nurses today and a major cause of nurse burnout.
Stressful Working Environments
Each nursing specialty has its own challenges but there are nursing specialties with more challenges than others.
They require working in highly stressful environments such as the emergency department or intensive care.
These environments require nurses to handle combative patients, ethical dilemmas, traumatic injuries, high mortality rates, and many other situations which cause high-stress levels to nurses and increase the risk of burnout.
Such stressful workplaces result in an increased risk of burnout for nurses.
If the nurse workplace lacks teamwork, collaboration, and support from senior management then burnout might be a frequent thing there.
Collaboration is very important in nursing because it leads to a lot of lives getting saved.
Poor teamwork usually results in conflict, bad communication, zero cooperation, and peer bullying, major things that contribute to an unpleasant work environment that results in medical errors which lead to bad outcomes for patients.
Emotional Exhaustion From Patient Care
Patient care is an important part of nursing and the satisfaction that comes with helping a patient get better could be worth all the hours of work.
However, for health care workers who work in critical departments or offer end-of-life care, there is the aspect of lower recovery rates and higher mortality rates that often results in compassion fatigue and increased burnout rates.
In understaffed hospitals nurses who care for more patients than they should, risk burnout.
Emotional drain is rampant in hospitals or facilities that are understaffed where the ratio of nurses to patients is more than 1:4.
Effects of Nurse Burnout
Nurse burnout has negative effects on both the nurses and the medical facility they are working in.
Here are some effects of nurse burnout:
Nurses’ Shortage And Turnover
The nursing shortage is often a result of a low percentage of nursing school enrollment, increased retirement numbers, an increasingly aging population and their need for healthcare workers, and a high number of nurses quitting the nursing profession completely.
According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing 1 in 5 nurses quits their job within the first year while 1 in 3 nurses quit in their second year.
According to a Registered Nurse Network nursing burnout statistics, a huge percentage of the nurses quitting are doing so because they feel overworked thanks to the increasing number of patients; they don’t enjoy their job anymore, and others say it is because they spend most of their working time on paperwork which is endless.
With such a great number of nurses quitting those who remain in the profession find themselves battling more workload than they can handle and they end up experiencing burnout resulting even in more quit rates in the profession.
This is one of the major risks linked to nursing burnout.
Nurses commit medical mistakes because they are always exhausted.
Patients end up bearing the consequences because they receive low-quality care.
There have been extreme cases of patient discomfort and in some unfortunate instances, deaths have occurred.
For example, there have been real-life instances where the nurses experiencing burnout also had unnecessary infections like urinary tract and even surgical infections.
This can cause great discomfort to the patient.
With tired nurses forcing themselves to work every day in these medical facilities, the mortality rates in patients keep increasing.
Most of them fail to make the right medical decisions on patient cases resulting in most of them dying even in instances where they could have lived.
Nurses don’t usually want to make these medical errors, it is their drained mental and emotional states which cause them to make them by misjudging a medical situation.
Increased Depression And Suicide Rates
The depression and suicide rates among nurses are strongly connected to nursing burnout.
According to a 2020 survey, a great number of nurses and physicians experiencing burnouts experience depression and commit suicide.
However, for the nurses who sought help and experienced support at their workplaces, their physical and mental well-being was positive.
How To Prevent Nurse Burnout?
It is possible for nurses to prevent nurse burnout before it happens and seek help on time.
Both nursing professionals and their employers can do a few things to prevent nurse burnout.
Here are some useful tips for both nurses and employers to prevent nurse burnout situations or deal with symptoms of burnout.
It is important that nurse managers consider creating favorable work schedules for their nurse staff to avoid job dissatisfaction incidents.
The shift lengths shouldn’t be too long, the maximum length should be 9 hours maximum with adequate rest.
If you happen to be a nurse look for employment in facilities that treat their staff humanely.
Avoid putting in crazy over time and let your employers know that you need a schedule that allows you to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
You must have enough time to work and also enough time to spend with your loved ones or do your favorite things.
A break from work schedules is always advisable for nurses.
Make sure you take advantage of your off days and take a vacation or even a staycation to deeply relax and change your scenery.
Health institutions should also make it mandatory for all their health workers to take vacations to rest and ensure that their staff is taking all the vacations they need.
This will help improve professional performance, increase job satisfaction and reduce the turnover rate.
As a nurse, if you have zero support, then it is time to seek support.
There are nurse support groups and work buddy systems that make it easy for nurses to vent their frustrations, and discuss crucial issues affecting them in the workplace and the daily challenges that they face.
Such support groups are amazing and they help you vent so that when you are out of the work environment you can truly relax.
When you have a support system, you will hardly feel hopeless or depressed and when you still do because your work environment is unforgiving, you can always seek professional help from a therapist or a counselor.
Come Up With Coping Methods
Learning your coping methods will help you handle the things that stress you in your work environment.
Coping skills such as restorative exercise, breathing techniques, journaling, and a post-work relaxation routine can make a huge difference in your physical and mental health.
Consider Changing Your Nurse Specialty
Perhaps you are in a specialty that is too demanding and stressful which is definitely contributing to your feelings of depression.
If you love your nursing profession and wouldn’t want to be among the quitters, then consider changing specialties.
There are many nursing careers that arent stressful.
Choose a specialty that will not depress you and require long work hours such as a family nurse practitioner or a nurse educator.
Consider enrolling in an advanced nursing degree program like BSN, DNP, or MSN.
With an advanced nursing degree, new doors to other nursing opportunities will open and they don’t have to involve direct patient care.
They could be in leadership positions in the nursing field with lower stress levels such as in oncology, radiology, and others.
Consider Proper Self-care
If you notice signs of burnout, then you might consider getting into a self-care routine or activities.
Remember that it’s only you who can ensure your own emotional and mental stability so that you can in turn give your patients the best quality care.
Self-care should be mandatory especially if you are a nurse who works in a high-stress environment.
The following are some great examples of the self-care activities you can indulge in.
- Physical exercising: Be the nurse who exercises physically so that you can not only be physically fit but reduce any stress feelings
Exercising has numerous benefits such as managing stress levels and also preventing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Mindfulness Practice/Meditation: Meditation will help you manage chronic stress, burnout, and anxiety and help you achieve that great sense of well-being as a nurse
- Eat Healthy Foods And Don’t Skip Meals: If you are working longer shifts, it is important that you have access to nutritious foods at work
You might consider carrying packed food to work and don’t forget to take that lunch break or midnight break if you are on night shift to eat.
Keep your body well-fed with nutritious foods to avoid feeling hunger pangs on top of exhaustion.
You can’t be both the exhausted nurse and the hungry nurse!
- Go For Body Massages: You are constantly on your feet and taking care of others
You need to be taken care of too.
Book an appointment at a spa and get that body massage and other spa treatments because you need them.
Your body will relax and your mental health will improve.
After that relaxing massage, you will be rejuvenated enough and ready to tackle whatever work stressors will be awaiting you when you get back on duty.
When you chose your nursing career patient satisfaction was at the forefront, however, this cannot happen if you experience burnout in your career.
We have seen how nurse burnout affects the quality of patient care.
We have also looked at the causes, nurse burnout prevention measures, and how to recover from nurse burnout.
As a nurse remember to give yourself the same compassion you offer your patients.
Definitely, you will feel burnout at some point in your career.
When that happens, know that you need to look out for yourself more.
Go for a vacation and indulge in the self-care activities highlighted above.
You don’t want to risk patient safety because you are unable to perform outstandingly as you always have.
Nurse burnout is something that should be taken very seriously.
If you are experiencing burnout currently find out how to reduce nurse burnout by not only reading nursing burnout articles like this one but taking measures to ensure that you can still continue to effectively practice nursing for as long as you should.