Recommendations for Tackling Nurse Burnout

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Nurses enter the profession of nursing with a desire to play an essential role on the front line of healthcare. They accomplish a tremendous variety of tasks involving patients; however, they’re also faced with tasks involving colleagues and the organizations in which they work. Dealing with multiple priorities that are in constant competition for their attention is stressful enough, but then add on their chronic high stress work environments. It’s no wonder that nurses feel overwhelmed and burned out. Here are some of the responsibilities constantly vying for nurses' focus and attention, per The Joint Commission, 2019:

  • Providing direct care in a highly complex environment.
  • Overseeing and coordinating care and treatment provided to patients by others.
  • Educating peers, patients and families.
  • Supporting patients and families at critical and life-changing times.
  • Advocating for the needs of patients and communities.
  • Continuing personal development and staying abreast of changing practice and evolving science.
  • Managing personal needs and work-life balance.

Nurses and Burnout

Though we hear a lot about physician burnout, this condition is also a significant problem in nursing. According to a national nursing engagement report released in April 2019, of the 2,000+ health care partners responding to the survey, 15.6% of all nurses self-reported feelings of burnout, with emergency room nurses being at a higher risk” (The Joint Commission, 2019). Just like for doctors, burnout can affect the ability of any professional providing care for others. One of the reasons to focus on burnout and to find ways to lessen its impact is to improve patient safety. The journal Quick Safety shares that burnout “negatively affects the physical and emotional health of staff and contributes to rising costs. It also has been shown to have a negative impact on patient satisfaction, worsen patient outcomes or increase rates of safety events, and increase mortality” (The Joint Commission, 2019). Similar to their efforts focused on doctors, healthcare organizations need to support everyone on the nursing staff in their efforts to address and ameliorate the causes of burnout.

Defusing Nurse Schedule Stress and Frustration

Just one of the many ways to reduce the likelihood of nursing burnout is to promote nurses’ adoption of a new approach to optimizing their schedules. NurseGrid, the free app from HealthStream’s partner of the same name, is used by more than one million nurses to optimize their schedules and avoid some of the stress involved in the nurse scheduling process.

In a recently filmed interview, JohnMarc Alban, MS, RN, CPHIMS, RPI Certified Yellow Belt, Associate Director, Quality Measurement and Informatics, Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation, The Joint Commission, spoke about ways that individual nurses can reduce some of the stress inherent to nurses’ schedules. He advocates “combating the stress of work and the potential for burnout [by being] very deliberate in your schedule.” The fact of the matter is that nurses typically don’t work a regular job with a 9-to-5 schedule, with regular hours off, including weekends and holidays. Likewise, the anticipated downtime inherent to other professions and industries just doesn’t exist in much of nursing. He advises “taking the time to plan and organize your days and your weeks and your holidays and your vacations, so that you’re doing the things that you need to, to be able to function.” In addition, sleep and exercise need to be a priority, as well as the effort to get “enough family time and time with your friends and socializing and really having that work-life balance.”  According to Alban, “It may not necessarily be a regular Friday night or a Saturday night, it might be a Tuesday or Wednesday, when you and your friends might be available to just tap off your week and talk about how things are going, both in your work and your life in general” (Alban, 2019).


Alban, J., “Discussing Nurse Burnout with Joint Commission Nurses,” The Joint Commission, 2019, Retrieved at https://vimeo.com/user36611310/review/356926144/1e4529ec7d.

Joint Commission, “Developing resilience to combat nurse burnout,” Quick Safety, Issue 50, July 2019, Retrieved at https://www.jointcommission.org/sitecore/media-library/tjc/newsletters/quick_safety_nurse_resilience_final_7_19_19pdf/.

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