Waging a War Against Nurse Burnout

Burnout among nurses has been a concern for decades. Not enough men and women to fill open positions have plagued the profession for years, placing strain on those who are currently working in that capacity. Couple the long-term shortage situation with the rigors of facing life-and-death scenarios daily, and one finds the perfect storm for symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Unfortunately, these conditions are all too common among the over five million RNs, LPNs, and LVNs in this country.  

Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak that rocked the healthcare world last spring, a surge in these and many other serious symptoms have created an epidemic of burnout among nurses. While the world has hailed nurses as the heroes who have passionately committed themselves to the battle, those accolades do not lessen the reality that multitudes of nurses feel overworked, under-appreciated, and even traumatized. Nursing has always been a challenging career choice, but COVID has multiplied the expectations and workload exponentially. 


A nationwide survey produced some alarming findings, noting that— 

  • More than 60 percent of critical care nurses reported their physical health as poor.
  • More than 50 percent reported their mental health as poor. 
  • Those who reported worse health had a 31% to 62% greater chance of making medical errors.

Every day nurses reach the breaking point, to the detriment of their own physical and mental health. Patients are also affected due to the increased incidence of medical errors that accompanies burnout. 

The realization is painfully clear that a mass exodus of nurses from the workforce due to burnout would create a frightening healthcare crisis of a different kind. That is why the time is now for management to step up to the plate with strategies for improving the working lives of nurses.


  • Express gratitude

Sound too simple? Yes, a "thanks so much" or a "well done, great job!" may sound simple, but those few timely words can decrease stress and improve a person's mood. Praise or constructive feedback given "in the moment" at the point of occurrence will mean much more than an "I heard you did XXXX well last week." All types of recognition have value—peer-to-peer, management/supervisor-to-employee. So, lead by example with an intentional focus on looking for opportunities to express gratitude. 


  • Open a dialogue about mental health

While nurses will be quick to note the impact of mental health on their patients, the same topic may be considered taboo when the tables are flipped to medical professionals' mental and emotional well-being. 

Broach the subject candidly, insisting that the sharing of mental and emotional health concerns will be welcomed, even expected, by the management team. Make counseling, support programs, and mental health resources readily available, eliminating "hoops" that hinder access. Provide employee assistance programs or processes that will ease the ever-present work-life balance challenges nurses face. There are many resources available that can help nurses and healthcare workers prevent or recover from burnout.


  • Nurture healthy habits

Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet—the building blocks for good health. Nurses of all people should know this, right? Yet nurses tend to be others-minded, which means their own needs come last, despite knowing the ingredients necessary for a healthy mind and body. So, strategize ways to make it easier for your nurses to feed their bodies well and glean the benefits of regular exercise. Make breaks and lunch hours mandatory. Stock the break room with healthy snacks. Survey the staff for ideas of how management can assist in this area.


It will take a proactive approach to impact the growing problem of burnout among nurses. What steps can you take to combat this crucial factor in your organization? 


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LeaderStat specializes in direct care staff, interim leadership, executive recruitment, travel nursing and consulting for healthcare organizations nationwide.