According to a study done by the International Council of Nurses, the world could be short 13 million nurses by 2030. What’s the reason for this grim prediction? While COVID-19 is certainly a factor — with over 115,000 nurses dead from this virus — the other main reason is one that existed long before the pandemic occurred: nurse burnout.
Over 50% of healthcare workers in the U.S. have at least one symptom of PTSD. The problem has become prevalent in more than just America, however. In Oman, for instance, 73% of nurses have trouble sleeping, and in the UK, 57% of nurses considered quitting their jobs in 2021 — up considerably from the 36% who planned to leave in 2020.
Here is more information about this dire problem and how to fix it.
How to Identify When a Nurse is Burnt Out
Nurse burnout is defined by the National Institute of Health as “a widespread phenomenon characterized by a reduction in nurses’ energy that manifests in emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, and feelings of frustration and may lead to reductions in work efficacy.”
Specific symptoms vary from person to person, but there are a few telltale signs. Anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances are common symptoms to notice, but others are harder to pinpoint. Depersonalization, loss of appetite, and poor job performance may also indicate the nurse is feeling burnt out.
Causes of Nurse Burnout
While there’s no single underlying cause for burnout among healthcare professionals, here are some common complaints from nurses who are feeling particularly drained:
- Long hours
- Overnight shifts
- Lack of work/life balance
- Stressful environments
- Too many responsibilities
- A lack of teamwork
Since COVID-19, nurses have been experiencing all of the above issues more than ever, so it’s important to proactively identify problems like this in the workplace and rectify them as soon as possible.
Burnout Comes at a Cost
A recent study indicated that nurse burnout costs hospitals $9 billion and the entire healthcare system $14 billion annually. Worse yet, these numbers didn’t take into account consequences that are more challenging to quantify — like indirect revenue and loss of reputation, for instance. The good news is that hospitals that use stress reduction strategies for nurses spend about one-third less per year on burnout-attributed turnover costs than hospitals without such initiatives.
Fighting Nurse Burnout in the Workplace
While burnout is common in medicine, there are ways to combat it. Knowing the signs is the first step in fighting back. Like any illness, the sooner one identifies the problem, the higher likelihood there is for recovery. Additionally, nurturing a work environment where setting boundaries and asking for help is encouraged will give nurses reassurance that their wellbeing is valued. Research has also shown that the common twelve-hour shift has negative effects on both nurses and patients, so keeping shifts closer to 9 hours will also help matters.
Preventing Burnout Through Technology
Experts have indicated that improving technology for nurses will help make their lives easier. One suggested way to do this is by using telehealth so a remote care team can provide bedside nurses with an extra set of eyes to monitor patients. This reduces stress on the nurse, especially when they already have their hands full with many other patients.
Nursing is a physically and mentally demanding profession, so some degree of burnout is occasionally inevitable. However, by knowing the signs and implementing changes, there is hope for alleviating it before it becomes a long-term problem.