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Preventing Nurse Burnout – Five Strategies

Nurse burnout is a much-studied phenomenon that can result in both physical and emotional symptoms. It is characterized by a lack of motivation, frustration and a loss of efficiency. The ongoing nursing shortage and the relatively low numbers of nursing school openings has made addressing nurse burnout even more of a priority.

Strategies to Reduce Nurse Burnout

1. Be aware of the symptoms of burnout. This may sound simplistic, but knowledge about nurse burnout and nurse practitioner burnout is important. As with many health problems, a more advanced case of burnout is more difficult to treat than a nascent one. Recognizing the symptoms of burnout and responding early with help and treatment early is key. The professional stresses that lead to burnout in the nursing profession may be somewhat difficult to minimize, but early intervention is possible. Watch for these signs:

a. A nurse who is struggling with a loss of his or her sense of personal accomplishment, regularly wondering if they are really making a difference.

b. A nurse who is becoming so emotionally exhausted that the work itself, colleagues, and patients are depersonalized, and the nurse is simply numbed to the greater nursing experience.

c. A nurse who is doubting his or her competence.

d. A nurse who is feeling irritable and short-tempered—at work and outside of work.

e. A nurse who is experiencing physical symptoms, which may include feelings of anxiety, physical illness and dreading the thought of work

2. Be proactive and persistent in encouraging nurses to adopt work life balance practices to ensure that the stresses of work stay at work. The advice to make sure that nurses are investing in self-care is oft repeated, but it is still good advice. Healthy eating habits, exercise and hobbies that can promote relaxation are good ways to help avoid or minimize burnout.

3. Connect nurses to resources. Many healthcare organizations have excellent Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). This may sound obvious, but a nurse that is suffering burnout may be desensitized to the help that is around them. Be redundant with messages to nursing staff regarding available resources. Consider adding some of these tools to your campaign to reduce nurse burnout and nurse practitioner burnout.

a. Provide stress-reduction classes – either live or online to provide practical tools and stress-relieving techniques.

b. Enact reward and recognition programs – use programs that recognize real contributions made by nurses, connect behaviors with the mission of your nursing organization to help struggling nurses re-connect with the value of their work.

c. Create Buddy programs – they may be a staple in the workplace, but when well-executed, they can provide nurses with a valuable means of support and a means for venting while also providing alternate points of view on nursing and work life issues.

4. Wherever possible, address the factors that contribute to nurse burnout. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has a nurse residency program that could serve as a model for how to introduce new nurses to the realities of the profession—without introducing burnout at the same time. Participants come together for about four hours each month to learn from one another and from nurse leaders. In addition to the clinical and leadership skills nurtured by the residency program, nurses will also learn strategies to help them cope with death and dying and to care for themselves, personally and professionally. The program provides an early intervention to help prevent burnout and provide nurses with tools to deal with burnout should it occur. To learn more about this program, click here: https://uihc.org/nurse-residency-program

5. Re-evaluate. Help nurses make career changes but stay connected to their passion for nursing. This may mean helping them to re-evaluate their current situation. Is it time for another specialty? Is it time for a different setting? Passion and satisfaction can go hand-in-hand and a bout of burnout might mean that it is time to re-evaluate.

Combatting nurse burnout is one of the many strategies that healthcare organizations can work to improve nurse retention. The growing nurse shortage in some parts of the country requires that we make every possible effort to re-connect nurses to the passion that inspired their career choice. Contact HealthStream to speak to a solutions expert to learn more about our courses related to nurse burnout prevention in the healthcare industry.

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