Nurses have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Not only are they exposed to high risks of violence in the workplace, but they also consistently face high-stress situations and their own mortality. Their jobs are so demanding, in fact, that the resulting pressure has its own name: nurse burnout. This can put their very health in danger, so if you’re a hospital administrator, manager or nurse, you must realize when stress is becoming a dangerous issue.
What Is Nurse Burnout?
Before learning the causes of nurse burnout, it’s important to understand the condition. Burnout causes nurses to lose interest in their jobs, show less productivity, become easily frustrated and experience fatigue. This can result in damaged relationships with coworkers and loved ones, emotional distress and physical illness.
Regardless of the cause of nurse burnout, it all boils down to chronic stress. Your body is hardwired to revert to normal after a stressful situation, but when stress is consistent, you may experience headaches, anxiety, depression and even develop heart disease. Fortunately, we now understand some of the main causes of nurse burnout.
Causes of Nurse Burnout
There are countless stressors that can lead to nurse burnout, so this list isn’t exhaustive. You must also recognize that the majority of cases occur due to the combination of several of these causes.
Conflict With Patients: Even though nurses devote themselves to helping the sick and dying, they don’t always get the appreciation they deserve. If you’ve ever come across an angry patient, you know how stressful this can be. Conflict with patients is a main cause of nurse burnout.
Long Work Hours: Nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs in America, so regardless of how many of these professionals the medical schools churn out, nurses never lack for hours. Unfortunately, these hours aren’t always voluntary thanks to short staffing and the fact that nursing professionals are rarely able to leave right when their shift ends.
Surrounded by Death: Nurses rarely become accustomed to death, so it hits them hard every time. Studies show that nurses who are surrounded by death experience higher levels of stress than their counterparts.
High-Stress Environments and Large Workloads: Hospitals rarely have peaceful moments. Whether it’s trying to save someone’s life after Code Blue is called or rushing to help restrain a combative patient, nurses are typically always going at full speed. Additionally, technology has increased their workloads over the past decade, so nurses are doing more work in these environments than ever before.
The Vicious Cycle: Unappreciative or upset patients can quickly lead to stress of nursing staff. Unfortunately, studies show that patients cared for by nurses experiencing burnout are less satisfied with their care. The patient gets upset, resulting in the nurse becoming even more stressed. It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to stop once it starts.
Fighting Nurse Burnout
There are a variety of ways that hospital administration and nurses can combat nurse burnout. Some of these techniques are institutional in nature; but, in many cases, it’s up to the nurse to take initiative. Here are a few common techniques to reduce nurse burnout:
- Medical facilities offer counseling or talking therapies to employees.
- Nurses manage their time so they can spend time with loved ones.
- Nurses reduce nicotine and alcohol consumption.
Of course, the first step towards fighting burnout is recognizing it. Many nurses will claim they’re fine although they experience stress and depression. The Well-Being Index, though, can gauge levels of nurse burnout, even if medical professionals aren't being honest with themselves.
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The Well-Being Index provides immediate feedback and offers resources for nurses experiencing burnout. Administrators can also track overall results from their facility – though nurse responses are anonymous – and recognize when institutional changes may be necessary.
If you're involved in any aspect of the health care field, check out the Well-Being Index demo.