7 ways hospitals, nurses and nursing schools can combat nurse burnout


Nurses face an array of tough daily challenges on the job.

Twelve-hour shifts are commonplace. Nurses also are caring for more, typically high-acuity, patients with the influx of previously uninsured people who have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, they are caring for older patients — currently, 6.1 percent of the U.S. population is 75 years old or older, and that will jump to 9.5 percent by 20130, due to the aging of the baby boomer generation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

These challenges nurses face — situational, physical and emotional — can lead to burnout. And although many nurses suffer from burnout, they seldom get help for it, says Dan Beller, who has been in the healthcare staffing industry for 12 years and currently leads the nursing division at Fusion Medical Staffing.

Here, Mr. Beller provides seven ways that nurses, nursing schools, hospitals and healthcare leaders can work together to address nurse burnout.

For nursing schools

1. Recognize the potential for and early signs of burnout. It is a gradual process, and not all personalities may be prone to it, but with proper training instructors can watch for warning signs of burnout, according to Mr. Beller. These potential warning signs may include the feeling of being underappreciated for a job well done, unclear job demands, not getting enough sleep, taking on too many projects without help, lack of close relationships, high achieving Type A personalities, the need to control everything constantly or a pessimistic view of themselves.

2. Teach resiliency and self-care. Resiliency training or self-care should be a part of every nursing school's core curriculum, says Mr. Beller. "Educators have a responsibility to help nurses understand ways to keep themselves physically and emotionally healthy and to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout. 'Nurses, heal thyselves' can no longer be status quo," he says.

For hospitals

3. Create a positive work environment for nurses. It is important for nurses to be able to express themselves in a professional manner about their workload and work environment — and actually have their issues heard. Mr. Beller says the job is very physically and mentally demanding, and nurses can't just "walk away" because somebody's life and health is on the line. Therefore, hospitals should have an open door policy and listen when there are serious concerns. In terms of workload, hospitals could put policies in place to limit nurse-to-patient ratios, he says.

4. Address staffing concerns immediately. When hospitals are concerned about a potential staffing shortage, there are various ways to address it. They can hire new college graduates or nurses from temporary staffing agencies to help boost staffing for a period of time until they're able to hire full-time permanent people or the patient census drops. "When nurses are worried about their patients and jobs when they go home, there is no decompression for them. They never really 'leave' work. If they know that everything is under control and the patients are taken care of, it may help to alleviate one part of the things that overtake them," Mr. Beller says.

For nurses

5. Take regular breaks. Mr. Beller recommends that nurses adopt a daily ritual to help with stress. That may be writing down thoughts, doing yoga or reading some inspirational quotes. "Whatever trips your trigger to chill out and relax and put it in your ritual, do it each day," he says.

6. Disconnect from technology for 10 to 15 minutes. During this technology break, Mr. Beller also recommends that nurses do some deep breathing, sit outside and focus on nothing but nature, or meditate and think about their mantra.

7. Seek out support. Nurses should have outlets to channel their thoughts, feelings and emotions, Mr. Beller says. He encourages nurses to pick their favorite charge nurse and let them know they need to vent. "Vent your frustrations and be done with them. A lot of times, just getting things off of your chest will keep you from feeling weighted down and out of control," he says. He also notes that many hospitals have an employee assistance program to confidentially vent to a counselor if the nurse is not comfortable venting to a co-worker or supervisor.


More articles on workforce and labor management:

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Hospitals add nearly 17k jobs in May
Huntington Memorial Hospital, union reach agreement shortly before scheduled labor board hearing


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