Why hospitals should let nurses take outdoor breaks

For nurses feeling burned out during hospital shifts, an outdoor break in a garden can help mitigate emotional exhaustion, a study published in the American Journal of Critical Care found.

The researchers conducted a trial of nurses assigned to either six weeks of a work break in an outdoor hospital garden or six weeks of indoor-only breaks. Break assignments were then switched for a subsequent six weeks.

The researchers administered a psychological inventory to assess nurse burnout at the beginning and end of each six-week period, and nurses completed an assessment called the Present Functioning Visual Analog Scale at the start and end of each break to capture their immediate psychological symptoms.

When comparing indoor and garden breaks, for 29 nurses who took garden breaks, the researchers saw significant improvement in scores on the psychological inventory for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, or feeling detached from one's thoughts.

Additionally, compared with indoor breaks, total symptom scores on the Present Functioning Visual Analog Scale improved significantly when nurses took a break in the garden.

"Taking daily work breaks in an outdoor garden may be beneficial in mitigating burnout for nurses working in hospital environments," the researchers concluded.

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