It’s no secret that nurses with critical job responsibilities work in high-stress environments. The pressures of decision-making and increasing demands of patient care can take a toll on a nurse’s mental, physical and emotional health. Combined with the ongoing nursing shortage and long hours, burnout is a risk many nurses will face throughout their health career.
What Is Burnout?
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an official occupational phenomenon. It’s even listed in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). As an occupational phenomenon, the term “burnout” should only be used within the context of a person’s job or occupation — not as an illness or health condition. While it is not considered to be an ailment or disease, burnout can be diagnosed by a doctor.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy”
Examples of Sustained Work-Related Stressors
- Long shifts (burnout is more common in nurses who work 10 to 13-hour shifts versus those who work eight to nine-hour shifts)
- Lack of sleep (burnout is more common in nurses who work long hours and consecutive shifts)
- Nurse to patient ratio (burnout is more common in nurses with more than four patients at a time)
- Poor patient outcomes (burnout is more common in nurses who face low recovery and high mortality rates)
- Stressful specialties (burnout is more common in nurses who work in stressful environments like the ICU or emergency rooms)
- Unsupportive team (burnout is more common in nurses who experience poor teamwork, management issues, lack of communication, conflict, peer bullying, etc.)
What Are the Physical, Emotional and Behavioral Signs of Nurse Burnout?
- Lack of motivation
- Skipping work
- Change in appetite
- Change in sleep patterns
- Poor judgment
- A sense of self-doubt or failure
- Frequent illness
- Substance abuse
- Decreased career satisfaction
Does Nurse Burnout Effect Patient Care?
Stress influences our ability to make decisions. In a medical setting, decision-making is critical. When a nurse is no longer enjoying their job due to burnout, their behavior and attitude can impact their ability to provide optimal patient care.
A nurse’s bedside manner is important to the patient’s health and level of care. Poor bedside manner is often one of the first signs that a nurse is suffering from burnout. Nurses who are burnt out may feel a lack of empathy and compassion toward their patients and become more cynical and insensitive. This can leave a patient feeling alone and unimportant and deter them from seeking medical care in the future.
How Can Nurse Burnout be Prevented?
Initiating burnout prevention is an important task for hospitals and their staff, including the nurse managers and leaders. While a nurse should do what they can to prevent themselves from experiencing burnout, it is equally important for their workplace to be proactive in monitoring the wellness of nursing staff and to implement preventive measures.
Burnout prevention measures may include:
- Improving schedules and implementing shorter shifts (nine hour maximum)
- Saying no to overtime and finding a healthier work-life balance
- Discussing work-related stressors with a support group, therapist or friend
- Taking more breaks and utilizing vacation time (some hospitals are introducing mandatory vacation days)
- Practicing coping methods (i.e., restorative exercises, breathing techniques, post-work relaxation routines, journaling, etc.)
- Changing specialties or focus areas (some nurses will go back to school to earn their masters or doctorate degrees)
Supportive Nursing Programs in Missouri
Whether you have already spent time working in the medical field or are looking to pursue a new health career, you can earn your diploma from the St. Louis College of Health Careers. We offer comprehensive, fully accredited programs including Practical Nursing, Patient Care Technician, Medical Assistant, Respiratory Therapy and more.
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