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Nursing’s a tough job. Anyone who’s ever tried to stop nurse burnout in their facility already knows this. High stress positions and life-and-death stakes can lead to burnout and other mental health issues. Even outside of ER and ICU settings, the intensity of nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic can take a toll. 

According to a 2018 survey, 31.5% of nurses who left healthcare cited burnout as their main reason—and this was before the pandemic. Ontario’s COVID-19 Advisory Table found that in the spring of 2021, over 60% of nurses reported burnout. 

Reducing burnout is an important factor in employee retention. But how can you monitor for burnout? And how can you stop nurse burnout? Read on to find out. 

What Are Some Symptoms of Burnout?

Burnout is a result of prolonged stress, and can lead to a wide array of physical and mental symptoms. Burnout doesn’t present the same way for everyone, but some symptoms are more common than others. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step you need to take to stop nurse burnout. 

Exhaustion

Burnout can cause both physical fatigue and compassion fatigue.

Lowered Immunity

Consistent stress can lower immunity, making it harder to fight off illness. For nurses, this is particularly dangerous. 

Loss of Motivation 

When you’re burnt out, you might lose motivation to do anything, even the things that normally fulfill you. This can cause dissatisfaction, depression, and general unhappiness at work and in life. 

Inability to Concentrate

Lack of concentration is a common symptom of burnout. This can also increase human error in a fast-paced nursing environment. 

Why Are Nurses at High Risk of Burnout? 

Anyone can get burnt out at their job, but nursing’s unique demands make it particularly likely. Long and demanding shifts can decrease the chance for proper rest. In fact, 25% of nurses report being unable to get enough sleep between shifts. 

Nurses with more than a 1:4 nurse-to-patient ratio also have a higher risk of burnout. Studies have shown that each additional patient raises the risk of burnout by 23%. This can become a vicious cycle. When nurses leave due to burnout, the remaining staff is often overloaded, which can cause further burnout. Nurses in emergency or intensive care units are at especially high risk due to the fast-paced nature of their jobs. 

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How to Stop Nurse Burnout

Monitor Staff for Signs of Burnout 

In order to stop nurse burnout, it’s crucial to know the symptoms. Managers should be aware of the possible signs of burnout. Surveys and informal temperature checks can help you connect with your staff. Remember, it’s important to provide a judgment-free space for employees to share their feelings. Let your staff know that you’re there to support them. 

Provide Flexible Benefits That Prioritize Mental Health

Regardless of industry, 58% of workers say that non-traditional benefits could help them limit stress. Flexible benefits allow nurses to choose the plans that work best for them and help stop nurse burnout by letting employees prioritize perks that would benefit their mental health. 

Promote Work-Life Balance 

Work-life balance is crucial to preserving the health and happiness of your employees. A good work-life balance can reduce stress and prevent burnout. You can promote a more balanced way of living and better work culture in general by offering flexibility and understanding. If possible, offer flexible schedules, or introduce a shift bidding system that gives workers more say over their hours. Let your staff know that you value them as individuals both in and out of work. 

Reduce Mental Health Stigma by Fostering Communication 

There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. This stigma can make it difficult for employees to reach out and ask for help. In fact, self-stigma is associated with lower levels of mental health recovery. 

Addressing stigma head-on, before the symptoms of burnout occur, can create a supportive work community. Opening a dialogue is a good start, but it’s important to follow this up with concrete action, such as providing flexible benefits. If you’re interested in starting a conversation, consider hosting mental health workshops or even sending out mental health-themed newsletters.  

Encourage Full Use of PTO 

Time off can help nurses and other healthcare staff return to work renewed and rejuvenated. But in 2017, only 52% of workers used their full vacation benefits. Remind your employees that PTO exists for a reason. Encouraging breaks in the short term can help reduce turnover in the long term. 

Cultivate Careers

Lack of opportunity for growth is one of the top five stressors for workers. You can help stop nurse burnout by creating clear tracks to promotions and allowing them to see a path forward. It can help nurses to know that they’re building towards their long-term goals. 

Better Hiring With Apploi

Apploi helps you find and recruit your ideal candidates, so you can focus on supporting your nurses. Interested in learning more about how you can recruit, hire, and onboard healthcare staff quickly? Contact us today for a free demo of our end-to-end talent management solution.

 

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Pritma Chattha, DNP MHA RN

Pritma is a Yale-educated nurse executive with 18 years of experience advocating for patients at the bedside and in the boardroom. She currently serves as the Head of Healthcare Innovation at Apploi—healthcare's leading recruitment and credentialing platform. Over the last decade, Pritma has honed her expertise as a health informaticist, building and improving electronic health records and credentialing platforms. She is the immediate former Executive Director of Electronic Quality and Safety for Alberta Health Services, the largest health system in Canada. Pritma enjoys rethinking healthcare processes to provide safer, better, and more accessible healthcare. https://www.linkedin.com/in/pritma/