Nurse Burnout: Causes and Prevention

Clearstep Team

People working within all industries are likely to have had at least some experience with burnout. However, burnout among nurses has become so widespread that it’s creating significant problems within the medical industry. Below, our experts from Clearstep will explore the basics you need to know about nurse burnout, its causes, its impacts, and different methods to help prevent it.

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What is Nurse Burnout?

According to the WHO, burnout is an occupational phenomenon and syndrome that results from an excess of chronic workplace stress that isn’t successfully managed. Three specific dimensions characterize the condition, including;

  1. Reduced professional efficacy
  2. Feelings of exhaustion or depletion 
  3. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of cynicism or negativism related to one’s job

Burnout is also known to lead to a wide assortment of problematic symptoms, such as;

  • A cynical attitude towards work
  • A lack of empathy for coworkers and patients
  • A sense of panic about work
  • Withdrawal from professional or personal relationships
  • Decreased work ethic
  • Slower responses to workplace duties
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety 

While people in all professions can experience burnout, there’s little wonder why it’s such a common issue for nurses working within the healthcare industry, especially during a global pandemic. Burnout among healthcare professionals has become such an issue that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is classifying it as its own epidemic. 

What Causes Nurse Burnout?

A nurse adjusting her mask.

Nursing is a highly intensive and challenging job, and several elements of the profession are known to lead to burnout. Some of the most common causes include;

High Stress

Nursing is a very stressful profession that has only become more complex over the last few years due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Some nursing professions are much more stressful than others, especially in emergency departments or intensive care units. 

Long Hours

Nurses have had to contend with extended hours for a long time, but short staffing, the Coronavirus, and the increased need for care of aging generations have made this worse. Nurses generally work 8, 10, and 12-hour shifts, though many are now forced to contend with longer hours due to the noted shortages.

Lack of Support

Burnout is widespread for nurses in workplaces where collaboration and effective teamwork are in short supply. This lack of support can increase stress and lead to problematic work environments that trigger burnout.

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Sleep Deprivation

Stress and long hours often create sleep issues for medical professionals, leading to sleep deprivation that only increases their exhaustion and makes their already demanding work even more challenging to do effectively. 

Emotional Strain from Patients

Caring for patients is emotionally rewarding but can also significantly strain medical staff. This is particularly true for the nurses working in areas with high mortality rates and where the chance of patient recovery is low.

Additional Causes

Some additional causes for nurse burnout include;

  • Struggles with difficult patients
  • Career development problems
  • Work overload
  • Time pressure
  • Exposure to diseases and injuries
  • Exposure to threats or work-related violence

Clearstep is here to help enhance patient experience while making work easier for medical staff.

The Effects of Nurse Burnout on the Industry

Nurse burnout doesn’t just impact the individual nurses that suffer from it; it also impacts the healthcare industry as a whole. With so many nurses struggling from the effects of burnout, the healthcare industry is also having to contend with;

Low Quality of Patient Care

Nurses who experience burnout provide a lower quality of patient care than their non-burned-out counterparts. This can be dangerous and lead to patients not receiving the medical help they need to recover. In some more severe cases, it can even lead to negligence and death.

High Turnover Rates and Staff Shortages

According to reports from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, high levels of nurse burnout are strongly correlated to high turnover rates, a significant issue for a healthcare industry already suffering from chronic staff shortages. 

Low Morale

Burnout among nurses leads to low morale, negatively impacting job performance and cooperation. In a healthcare setting, low morale can be a dangerous thing that puts the well-being of patients at risk.

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout

A nurse twisting a stethoscope into a heart. 

Thankfully, there are several methods that large health systems, medical facilities, and nurses can leverage to help prevent the development of burnout, especially when they’re leveraged alongside quality self-care practices. Some of the most effective prevention measures include;

Leveraging Effective Technology

Using advanced tools and technology, such as the top-quality AI chat solutions provided by Clearstep, can help automate many tasks within the medical field, freeing up time for nurses and reducing their workplace responsibilities.  

Finding Support

Ensuring a healthcare system has support systems for nurses is a great way to reduce stress and the chances of burnout development. One great solution is to create a support network of colleagues and superiors and encourage nurses to develop more connections with friends and family members. 

Related: Why this talk from the CMIO of Baycare Gave Me Goosebumps

Creating Better Schedules and Taking Breaks

We already talked about how nurses work long shifts. Because of the issues related to that, nurses need to take breaks and create better schedules that won’t lead to so much stress or risk of burnout on the job.

Changing Specialties

Nurses working in more highly stressful fields might want to consider changing specialties to help reduce the risk of burnout and create a better work-life balance. Nurses can find many great opportunities for work in health informatics, healthcare admin, and community health leadership. 

Leveraging Coping Methods and Self Care

Nurses need to develop effective coping mechanisms while also practicing a routine of self-care to help them deal with stress. Medication and breathing exercises can be a great help, along with yoga, taking time off, sleep prioritization, and modified diets. It’s also essential to set clear work-life boundaries. 

Final Thoughts

Our team of passionate healthcare professionals at Clearstep hopes that the above information has helped you learn more about the critical issues related to nursing burnout and what you can do to help prevent it. Please consider browsing our other great medical resources for more information, or send us a message to learn about our fantastic healthcare solutions.

Are you ready to see what clinical AI solutions can do to improve your healthcare system? Learn about our solutions at Clearstep today!

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