The field of nursing has one of the highest rates of burnout compared to other U.S. occupations. According to a nursing fact sheet released by the Department for Professional Employees AFL-CIO, there are an estimated 500,000 registered nurses not working in their field for reasons that include difficult working conditions, limited staffing and long hours. Nursing is among the top ten occupations with the highest levels of on-the-job injury or illness. Five percent of nursing staff report being injured on the job due to assault, and more than 60 percent report being forced to work unwanted overtime. These difficult conditions are contributing to burnout and creating somewhat of a retention crisis.
This e-newsletter offers tips to healthcare organizations on beating the burnout, which in turn can help providers give better care to patients. Keep reading to find out more.
Managing employee stress and fatigue
- Fight stress: A job in nursing generally operates at a fast and furious pace. And due to shortages, some shifts are running as long as 15 to 18 hours. This rapid pace and heavy workload has been attributed to stress-related symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, irritability, insomnia, headaches, back pain, weight gain, high blood pressure and depression. Help your staff combat these indicators of burnout by promoting the benefits of decompressing, getting a good night’s rest, eating well and exercising. A wellness journal can be a great and interactive way to provide important health and wellness information. Hand them out at informational sessions about the importance of a proper diet, exercise and rest.
- Ensure proper staffing through retention: Healthcare facilities with proper nurse-to-patient ratios not only show a lesser rate of burnout for nurses, but better outcomes for patients. In fact, there is a direct correlation between burnout and patient health. And it makes sense. After all, the larger the patient load and the longer the hours, the more likely it is a mistake will occur. Avoid being short-staffed in the first place by hiring and retaining good employees. According to a publication from AMN Healthcare®, enlisting new graduates in a residency program is a good way to improve retention. It also mentions that the turnover rate is lowered by more than 20 percent for graduates participating in a residency program.
Another way to find and retain new, reliable employees is through existing ones. Consider implementing a referral program where employees are rewarded for referring new hires. Rewards could include anything from a travel cooler to a Personal Espresso Set. Consider giving monetary rewards to those who have referred someone that has stayed on the job for a specified period of time.
- Combat compassion fatigue: Nursing, by nature, is a compassionate field. Unfortunately, many suffer compassion fatigue—becoming indifferent to suffering—due to the continuous emotional strain that comes from dealing with difficult situations and trauma on a daily basis. Having an employee assistance program (EAP) come in after an especially traumatic situation can help. EAP teams can work with staff in an effort to debrief and better deal with difficult situations. If you have this valuable resource available, make sure employees know it. Promote this service and encourage its use by imprinting contact information and program details on a magnet or mouse pad that can be distributed organization-wide.
Remember, burnout doesn’t have to be part of the job. Fight it with these simple tips and you may benefit from happier employees who provide better patient care.
“Nursing: A Profile of the Profession.” Department for Professional Employees AFL-CIO. Fact Sheet 2012 n.d. Web. Retrieved 18 Dec. 2014.