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Prevention Strategies for Staff Burnout in Healthcare

RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and healthcare workers are particularly at risk for staff burnout in healthcare. Chronic work-related stressors such as long hours, sleep deprivation, a high-stress environment, emotional strain from patient care, and a lack of support all lead to burnout.

Burnout is the reaction to continuous job stress in which serious emotional and physical exhaustion occurs.

A large contributing factor to staff burnout in healthcare are the psychological and physical strains within the organizational structure or facility. Many healthcare workers are overworked, overburdened, and drained. 

Addressing burnout requires a multifaceted approach where change is necessary on both the individual level and the organizational level. This blog post aims to bring awareness and provide prevention strategies for work environments to implement within their facilities to decrease burnout and increase well-being.

Organizations and facilities are finding that 33% of nurses leave the profession within the first two years because of issues like a toxic work environment and a demanding workload. Common causes of burnout in healthcare include:

  • Poor support from leadership
  • Conflict and poor communication
  • Lack of positive feedback 
  • High nurse-to-patient ratios
  • Long hours and overtime
  • Inadequate staffing
  • Too much time spent on non-clinical tasks
  • Role ambiguity
  • Bullying and violence
  • Disorganized facility
  • Scarce resources
  • Lack of teamwork and collaboration

When the stresses of the job are not paired with protocols and preventative measures, burnout quickly manifests amongst healthcare staff. 

Staff Burnout Signs

When healthcare staff begin to experience burnout they start to feel disengaged from the hospital or facility, only performing the minimum requirements of the job. The physical and emotional exhaustion from burnout can lead to:

  • Depersonalization
  • Reduced professional efficacy
  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Low engagement within the team
  • Conflict among coworkers
  • Lack of enthusiasm or drive 
  • Absenteeism, arriving late, or leaving early
  • High turnover
  • Cynicism
  • Sense of low personal accomplishment
  • Feelings of frustration, failure, and a sense of powerlessness

The chronic stress of staff burnout in healthcare can potentially cause harm to the individual themselves, the institution, and patients.

The negative impacts to healthcare organizations as a result of burnout include suboptimal or impaired patient care and medical errors, which can cause lower patient satisfaction and substantial costs to the facility as a consequence.

Healthcare professional tired, fatigued, leaning against a wall

Prevention Strategies for Staff Burnout in Healthcare

The first step to preventing burnout in healthcare is to bring awareness and attention to the problem so there can be forward action in finding a solution. This involves training staff to recognize the signs of burnout and engaging leadership as the front runners, fostering a culture that is actively combatting the contributing factors to burnout. 

Adequate Breaks and Vacation Time

Healthcare staff working 6, 8, or 12 hour shifts experience severe fatigue, often going without eating or sitting for extended periods of time. Many staff feel so overwhelmed by their patient loads that they don’t have time to properly walk away for a break or they’ll use their break to catch up on work. 

Administrators and management must make sure staff are receiving enough breaks so they can remain alert and energized for the entirety of their shift.

Vacation time is also valuable. When time off is constantly denied, resentments build up and stress levels remain high. Facilities need to convey to staff that work-life balance is important by making vacation time available and accessible.

Resources to Encourage Self-Care and Well-Being

Having personal resources available for healthcare staff can be extremely beneficial. Sponsoring gym memberships, quarterly massages, supplying child care, holding group sessions to debrief and process, or providing access to counseling services for mental health support all have a substantial positive effect.

Offering quiet spaces with comfortable seating and soothing lighting for healthcare staff to clear their heads, recharge, and take a moment to themselves away from the stress can help nurses return back to their shift with renewed energy and focus.

Collaborate with Staff for Scheduling

Working long shifts, especially multiple days in a row, can inevitably cause fatigue. It’s highly important to avoid overtime, because healthcare staff already need ample time to recuperate between regular shifts. 

While certain scheduling flexibilities may be hard to implement, it would be advantageous to find ways for staff to collaborate with supervisors. This helps staff feel more in control of their schedule.

Include Staff in Discussions and Ask for Input 

Give nurses and healthcare staff the ability to be part of decision making processes. This has a large impact on the healthcare system as a whole. 

By empowering healthcare staff to contribute their knowledge and skills, they feel like they’re positively influencing their work environment. They also feel like they’re participating in meaningful organizational decisions that affect medical practice.

Promoting autonomy and encouraging communication with an open door policy to hear staff’s opinions and concerns is very beneficial. It’s associated with an increase of trust in management and better commitment to the organization.

Anonymous surveys are another great way to receive feedback from staff. This indicates an opportunity for improvement in certain areas, in which management can then be proactive in promoting positive change.

It’s also imperative to address nurse bullying. It’s said that 45% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses while on duty. Organizations must deal with this in the workplace.

Improve Nurse-to-Patient Ratios

A study confirmed that nurses who have higher patient-to-nurse ratios are more likely to exhibit significant burnout signs. Nurses with an 8:1 patient-to-nurse ratio are twice as likely to reach emotional and physical exhaustion.

Bringing in additional per diem nurses and healthcare workers to support as needed to reduce patient-to-nurse ratios greatly offsets other challenges that facilities face like turnover and poor patient care. 

Additionally, consider bringing in more support positions too to help conduct non-clinical tasks so nurses and healthcare workers can focus on their patients more attentively.

Recognize Hard Work

Acknowledging healthcare staff for their hard work goes a long way. Healthcare staff who work tirelessly to keep patients healthy and safe feel appreciated when leaders and management recognize their dedication. Being treated as valuable team members is huge.

Foster words of encouragement and confidence within healthcare staff. This increases their sense of worth, purpose, and motivation, and reinforces the meaningfulness of their hard work.

Partner with nurseIO to Combat Staff Burnout in Healthcare

By incorporating these prevention strategies for staff burnout in healthcare, facilities are better able to attract and retain employees!

nurseIO is a web and app based healthcare technology platform that connects healthcare workers desiring flexible gig work to open per diem shifts at local facilities. Cover shifts quickly with dependable independent contractor healthcare workers from nurseIO’s networks. This way you can prevent burnout in your full time staff and your facility can succeed. Sign up with nurseIO today!

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