How to Stop Nurse Burnout: 5 Tips for Facilities
Nurse burnout statistics are alarming. For example, a survey by the Minnesota Nurses Association found that 75% of nurses who left the bedside did so due to stress and burnout. An estimated 400,000 U.S. nurses decided to leave their jobs in 2017 alone, and more than one-third of them cited burnout as the main reason, according to a national study.
It’s crucial that facilities take steps to address and alleviate burnout, which has wide-ranging impacts on all stakeholders. Thankfully, there are ways to cultivate a healthier and more productive facility.
What Are the Impacts of Nurse Burnout on Nursing Facilities?
Burnout affects every aspect of a facility’s organization — nurses, patients, and healthcare organizations. Here are just a few examples of how it impacts each of these stakeholders:
- negatively impacts mental and physical health
- decreases job performance
- increases risk of medication and medical errors
- strongly associated with staff absenteeism and attrition
- compromises safety
- worsens outcomes
- diminishes patient satisfaction
- increases the operational costs of nursing facilities
- strains internal resources to constantly recruit, credential, and train new staff
- impairs ability to meet government regulations
- increases risk of lawsuits due to sentinel events
- decreases potential revenue due to lower CMS Five-Star Quality Ratings
Burnout is a byproduct of a distressed and broken healthcare system. It’s a costly, complex problem with high-risk ramifications. In fact, a study by the Journal of Patient Safety found that facilities with effective nurse burnout reduction programs spend an average of $11,592 per nurse per year employed (compared to $16,736 for facilities lacking such programs).
So, how can nursing facilities adequately address nurse burnout? Let’s review some solutions.
1. Understand the Primary Cause of Burnout
Nurse burnout doesn’t just happen overnight, nor is it the fault of our nurses. Nationally, 68% of nurses who left their job in 2017 due to burnout cited stressful work environments, and 63% of nurses considering leaving their job due to burnout (according to the JAMA article cited earlier). Understanding burnout as a consequence of moral distress and moral injury is essential to developing the correct solutions for prevention.
Moral distress is the psychological distress of being unable to act in a way we know is right. For example, a nurse may struggle during a poorly staffed shift if they can’t provide the quality nursing care their patients deserve. They know what to do but are unable to do so in this set of circumstances.
Moral distress can lead to moral injury, which is the long-term impact of going against your moral code to prevent, participate in, or be a bystander to something that violates your ethical principles and values. The nurse who is required to repeatedly work understaffed can develop feelings of guilt, shame, and conflict in not being able to provide nursing care to their professional standard.
If that injury isn’t addressed or resolved, it can result in burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as a “syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and is characterized by exhaustion, increased mental distance from work or cynicism, and decreased professional efficacy.”
Nursing facilities are in a prime position to mitigate moral distress and halt injury. When nursing facilities halt moral injury, which is systemic and structural at its core, they help prevent burnout.
Understanding the main causes of nurse burnout helps facilities prioritize and allocate their finite resources towards solutions that work.
2. Involve Nurses in Your Solutions
The key to addressing and preventing burnout is to provide nurses a seat at the table. Nurses are natural innovators and excellent problem-solvers. They can identify their sources of stress, provide short-term and long-term solutions, and prioritize the issues that impact them and their patients the most. Nurse participation assists facilities in finding relevant and practical answers while increasing staff engagement.
Nurses have an important voice in our healthcare system. They value and commit to workplaces that listen to staff and provide a safe workplace to address needs and concerns. Both nurses and facilities want to feel proud of the services they provide to patients. Working together provides the hope and possibility of creating a workplace where patients thrive, nurses excel, and facilities succeed despite difficult or uncertain times.
3. Support Nurse-Friendly Schedules
Working long hours and inflexible shifts are often mentioned as scheduling practices leading to nurse burnout. Excessive work hours (and poor staffing ratios) can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Nurses need adequate time to recover and get proper sleep to perform at their best.
Nurses want the autonomy to self-schedule their shifts to balance and complement their personal lives. Time is the new currency workers value as much as their pay, so the more flexibility and say nurses have in their schedules, the higher their job satisfaction rates.
Healthy, happy, and fulfilled nurses increase retention. Facilities supporting nurse-friendly schedules distinguish themselves from their competitors and become an employer of choice within a small nursing community.
4. Provide Education and Training
Proper education and training can decrease burnout risk, according to a review of factors linked to burnout among nursing facility staff. Providing care to elderly patients, in particular, is often associated with a higher risk for nurse burnout.
The elderly are one of our most vulnerable patient populations due to advanced age, complex medical conditions, decreased mobility, and at times decreased mental cognition. Patience, empathy, and a strong foundational knowledge of geriatric nursing is required in caring for the elderly.
Nurses serving the elderly who believed they had poor or inadequate knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease, for example, had a higher association with emotional exhaustion. In addition, patient-centered dementia training decreased staff depersonalization toward patients.
Providing nurses with robust education and training on medical conditions that affect the elderly equips and empowers nurses and supports quality patient care, improving patient outcomes, safety, and satisfaction. Self-care training helps nurses reduce and manage stress in their demanding roles. In addition, training leadership on identifying early signs of moral distress and injury allows time to implement solutions to stem the progression to burnout.
5. Cultivate a Positive Work Culture
Providing mental wellness resources and cultivating positive work environments can go a long way toward preventing nurse burnout, according to published research. For instance, training in resilience, meditation, yoga, and communication has been shown to promote mental well-being and decreased stress among nurses. In addition, improvements in work environments were linked to reduced rates of burnout, plans to leave current positions, and job dissatisfaction.
The WHO defines mental health as a “state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” It affirms that work-related mental health conditions are preventable and has developed guidelines to prevent negative work situations and cultures.
Facilities that invest in mental wellness and positive work environments for their nurses generally also invest in the health and longevity of their businesses. Implementing proactive strategies to prevent burnout takes facilities less time and cost to implement than managing the business ramifications of burnout.
Need Help Addressing Nurse Burnout at Your Facility?
We know that maintaining a healthcare environment where patients thrive, nurses excel, and your business succeeds is incredibly challenging for any facility. Learn how IntelyCare can help prevent burnout and keep your nursing staffing and facility thriving.