You didn’t get into nursing because it was an easy career. If you’re like most nurses, you chose it because you have a knack for caring for others and a passion to make a difference in their lives. Even so, sometimes even the most enthusiastic nurses can face an unexpected challenge: burnout. If your passion for nursing is beginning to feel more like a chore, you may already be experiencing some effects of burnout yourself. In light of COVID-19, this problem has only gotten worse for frontline workers. But, fortunately, there are some things nurses — as well as organizations — can do to guard against it.
What are the signs of nurse burnout?
The first step towards preventing nurse burnout is knowing what signs to look out for. Traditionally, nurse burnout has been defined as involving three components:
This can include physical exhaustion but goes deeper. It can involve the feeling of being overwhelmed, powerless, or stuck in your job.
Depersonalization or Cynicism
This involves an emotional disconnection from the work you’re doing. This disconnect can include everything from your patients to coworkers.
Low Personal Accomplishment
This occurs when your job no longer feels rewarding. Even activities you used to love bring you no joy. Everything becomes a chore.
What can nurses do to fight burnout?
While organizations can implement all kinds of initiatives to combat burnout, it also requires individual effort. If you’re wondering if you’ve reached the burnout stage, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I dread going to work each day?
- Am I constantly exhausted, fatigued, or tired?
- Am I suffering from loss of sleep or appetite?
- Do I feel more anxious or depressed than normal?
- Do I care less about the feelings of my coworkers?
- Do I feel apathetic towards caring for others?
Even if you’re just experiencing one or two of these symptoms, you’re likely combatting some form of burnout. But, whether you checked off the entire list (and added a few more items to it) or are just feeling a little worn out, implementing these strategies can help:
1. Create Meaningful Relationships In (and Out) of the Workplace
Feeling alone when you’re dealing with stress and overwhelming pressure puts you automatically at a disadvantage. It’s important to have coworkers and fellow nurses with whom you can share your distress with. Odds are they’ve either been exactly where you are, or they will be at some point in the future. It’s also crucial to have strong relationships outside of work. This is especially true when work starts to feel all-consuming and draining. Having people outside reminds you that there’s an entire world of experiences that don’t revolve around the pressure you’re feeling when you’re on the clock.
2. Set Up Work/Life Boundaries
If you lose yourself in your work, things can get especially dark when work becomes a dread. Having a life outside of work and focusing on family, friends, activities you enjoy, hobbies, and so forth can bring balance to your life and level out some of the burnout you may be feeling at work.
3. Prioritize Self-Care
When times are good, self-care can feel like an optional luxury, but when you’re facing burnout, it becomes an absolute necessity. Some self-care tips include:
- Getting restful sleep — for the average adult, this is seven to nine hours each night
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising or getting active for 20-30 minutes each day
- Spending time outdoors
- Taking time to unplug
- Trying meditation or yoga to decompress
- Feeling empowered to say “no” to things
4. Therapy/Assistance Programs
Even before COVID-19, burnout and depression were common in the nursing field, ranging from 35% to 45% across the US. While positive relationships, self-care, and work/life boundaries can go a long way towards fighting burnout, sometimes professional assistance is needed. This provides a safe space to express all of your fears, anxieties, grief, frustrations, and so forth without the risk of alienating family or friends or bringing down morale in the workplace. More and more healthcare organizations are creating and expanding their mental health resources for nurses, and it’s likely that accessibility to these services will increase in the future. Check to see what resources and programs your organization offers for mental health. If you find them lacking, it may be worth advocating for them or seeking employment at an organization that better prioritizes nurse wellbeing.
What can organizations do to combat nurse burnout?
Fighting nurse burnout is not something nurses should take fully on themselves. From self-care to community building to organizational initiatives, it truly takes everyone. Some things a healthcare practice or organization can do include:
1. Create a Positive Work Environment
Everyone from the CEO to the support staff plays a role in workplace culture. By fostering positive interpersonal relationships, even stressful times can become more manageable. On the other hand, low morale can lead to in-fighting and other negative experiences in the workplace, such as nurse bullying. Ways to build a positive work environment include:
- Offering enticing benefits
- Recognizing nurses for their hard work and dedication
- Prioritizing nurse safety
2. Leverage Technology to Improve Employee Experience
Another great way to fight nurse burnout is to leverage technology in a way that makes nurses’ lives easier. This includes patient-monitoring technology, HR softwares, workflow management platforms, and more. You may not be able to control the influx of patients or the amount of care they require, but you can find ways to reduce the effort needed to perform these tasks so that nurses can spend their time doing what they’re best at — providing high-quality care.
3. Implement Programs and Initiatives to Support Nurses
Part of dealing with burnout in the workforce is creating a supportive network around your nurses. This includes training leaders to recognize and address burnout as well as developing wellness programs for nurses and the wider staff. It’s also crucial to listen to nurses and to receive their feedback in order to develop strategies that can help prevent and address burnout in the future.
4. Improve Nurse/Patient Ratios With Caregiver Connect
If you have all the technology and programs and a great culture, but your nurses are still constantly battling burnout, it’s probably time to recruit more nurses. Studies have shown that nurse-to-patient ratios greater than 4:1 increase the risk of burnout by 23% per additional patient. Fortunately, services like Caregiver Connect were created just for this purpose. We analyze your current recruitment strategies, applicant-tracking software, and processes in order to locate opportunities for improvement. If you’re struggling to recruit nurses to meet the patient demand in your organization, contact our team to see how we can help.
Having trouble recruiting nurses? Caregiver Connect can help.
We know how difficult it can be to find the right talent for your healthcare organization. That’s why we leverage our proprietary communications solutions to help you recruit smarter. By evaluating your entire hiring journey, we find new opportunities to delight your candidates and stand out from your competition. If you’re ready for a recruitment strategy that actually works, contact our team today.