How to Prevent Nurse Burnout

The healthcare world has taken several hits over the past few years, making nursing one of the hardest fields to navigate both physically and emotionally. Preventing nurse burnout is essential to running a healthcare facility that prioritizes optimal patient care.

In this article, we’ll identify what nurse burnout is, what causes it, and how to prevent it so that your organization can continue providing exceptional care services.

If you’re seeing signs of nurse burnout already, contact an experienced stress management specialist like Dr. Buzz Mingin today. He’ll help you turn your workplace around so that nurses feel seen, heard, and respected and can do their job without sacrificing their health.

What is Nurse Burnout?

Nurse burnout, also known as “chronic fatigue,” is a state or condition nurses experience when they are severely stressed and exhausted, which ultimately affects their work performance and lifestyle.

Burnout Rate for Nurses

Today, 95% of nurses have reported feeling burnt out within the past three years (Zippia). While it wasn’t always this way, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threw the nursing field into a tailspin, and we saw a mass exodus of nurses from the field.

Even if the numbers weren’t nearly as telling in 2019 as they are today, the systems in place that failed during the pandemic need to be examined and resolved in order to continue to move forward and improve the experience of nurses and their patients.

What Causes Nurse Burnout?

Nurse burnout can be the result of many factors, from long working hours to unsupportive working environments and emotional strain. The job often requires emotional labor that can lead to compassion fatigue and negative physical effects. Nurses may not get adequate rest or sleep, have poor nutrition, experience dehydration, and other work-related issues.

Long Working Hours:

Nurses work hours that are unimaginable to many, sacrificing time with their loved ones to help other people and their families. The long working hours are often an unspoken part of the job that’s neither covered nor talked about in nursing school.

Research shows that the 12-hour shifts nurses often endure can be linked to long-term mental and physical health risks. It’s critical to understand the effects long hours have on nurse wellness so that leaders and administrators can prioritize their well-being.

Unsupportive Working Environments:

The amount of emotional support and attention deserved and needed from nurse administration is a far cry from what many nurses actually receive. Often, nurses are only spoken to by an authority figure when there is a problem, to be redirected, or to be scolded.

There is a desperate need for nurses to have access to mental health support after a traumatic incident, be emotionally validated when overwhelmed, and be complimented when performing well.

Emotional Strain

Emotional strain is the precursor to emotional burnout among nurses. Strain results in nurses feeling “tired and wired.” They feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the pressure and strain they experience at work.

However, despite their exhaustion, they struggle to sleep due to the persistent presence of stress hormones, which trigger a fight-or-flight response and hinder their ability to experience restful sleep and recovery.

Effects Of Burnout:

The effects of burnout are devastating to the physical and psychological capacity of a nurse. Once burnout sets in, lethargy, irritability, mood fluctuations, and chronic fatigue will ensue. Sadly, many nurses can inadvertently turn to alcohol, drugs, unhealthy eating habits, and make poor social decisions to compensate for burnout.

Physical Health:

A nurse’s physical health is critical for them to effectively manage a patient’s physical well-being. Whether it involves maneuvering a patient physically, having enough energy to sustain nursing work hours, managing personal stress, or simply avoiding physical pain, maintaining good physical health is essential for a nurse to be available and attentive to their patients’ needs.

Burnout takes a toll on nurses’ physical health, manifesting in various detrimental effects. Prolonged exposure to high levels of stress and chronic fatigue associated with burnout can lead to a range of physical symptoms. Nurses may experience exhaustion, both mentally and physically, resulting in decreased energy levels and overall vitality.

This depletion can weaken their immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Additionally, burnout can contribute to disrupted sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or difficulties in achieving restful sleep. Consequently, nurses may suffer from increased fatigue, diminished cognitive function, and impaired concentration.

Chronic stress endured during burnout can have a negative impact on cardiovascular health, leading to increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, and other cardiovascular complications. The physical consequences of burnout highlight the urgent need for prioritizing self-care and implementing strategies to mitigate the effects of prolonged stress on nurses’ well-being.

Mental Health:

A nurse’s mental health has a massive impact on their physical well-being. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize that all nurses require adequate mental health support. The stress nurses experience, both from their job and while on the job, can significantly increase their risk of developing mental illness.

The chronic and overwhelming stress experienced in the nursing profession can lead to emotional exhaustion, feelings of detachment, and a sense of depersonalization. Nurses may find themselves becoming cynical or indifferent towards their work, patients, and colleagues.

This emotional depletion can further manifest as decreased job satisfaction and a loss of passion for their profession. Burnout can also contribute to the development of various mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nurses may experience heightened levels of anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and difficulties in managing their emotions. It is crucial to prioritize mental health support and provide resources to help nurses cope with and prevent burnout, ensuring their overall well-being and the delivery of quality patient care.

Performance At Work:

Nurses are always expected to perform at their best while at work. However, it’s important to remember that nurses are also human beings. Patients have the expectation that nurses will be operating at their highest level of performance when attending to their needs, but burnout can have a profound impact on nurses, leading to a decline in performance.

As burnout sets in, nurses may experience decreased motivation, resulting in a lack of enthusiasm and engagement in their work. This can lead to reduced productivity, compromised quality of care, and an increased likelihood of making errors or mistakes.

Burnout can also impair nurses’ concentration and decision-making abilities, making it more challenging to handle complex situations and respond effectively to patient needs. Additionally, interpersonal relationships within the workplace may suffer as nurses experiencing burnout may become emotionally withdrawn or exhibit signs of irritability that can result in conflict.

The overall result is reduced job performance and satisfaction, which can have far-reaching consequences for both the nurse and the patients they serve. To mitigate these effects, leadership must address and prevent burnout through supportive measures, including regular breaks, access to resources for stress management, and fostering a positive work environment.

What Are The Signs Of Nurse Burnout:

The signs of nursing burnout vary from physical to emotional and behavioral signals. It’s important to understand the signs so that leadership can take proactive steps to avoid burnout and maintain a happy and healthy nurse workforce.

Physical Symptoms

Nurses experiencing burnout may face a variety of physical symptoms that can significantly impact their well-being. The prolonged exposure to chronic stress and exhaustion can result in persistent fatigue and a constant feeling of low energy, making even routine tasks feel overwhelming.

Physical manifestations may also include frequent headaches, muscle tension, and body aches, as the body bears the burden of ongoing stress. Digestive issues such as stomach pain, gastrointestinal discomfort, and changes in appetite may arise, further adding to their physical discomfort.

Additionally, sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or restless sleep, are common among nurses experiencing burnout, exacerbating fatigue and leaving them feeling unrefreshed. In some cases, burnout can weaken the immune system, making nurses more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

Emotional Symptoms:

Nurse burnout is often accompanied by a range of emotional symptoms that can significantly impact their mental well-being. Nurses experiencing burnout may find themselves feeling emotionally drained and depleted, leading to a sense of emptiness and detachment.

They may also experience heightened levels of irritability, becoming easily frustrated or impatient with patients, colleagues, or even themselves. Feelings of cynicism and indifference towards their work may develop, overshadowing the once strong sense of compassion and dedication.

Nurses may also experience increased levels of anxiety, feeling constantly on edge and overwhelmed. Additionally, a loss of enjoyment or interest in activities they once found fulfilling is common.

Behaviors To Watch Out For:

When assessing for nurse burnout, there are several key behaviors to watch out for. One important behavior to monitor is increased absenteeism, where nurses may frequently call in sick or take excessive time off from work. Chronic lateness or consistent tardiness can also be a red flag, as it may indicate a lack of motivation or engagement.

Continued mistakes or errors in their work performance can be a sign of burnout affecting their concentration and attention to detail. Additionally, you might see a decline in personal accountability, where nurses may start to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or display a lack of ownership.

Taking frequent or prolonged breaks, appearing disengaged or daydreaming, and exhibiting procrastination are other potential signs of burnout. You may also notice poor personal hygiene, disorganization, socially clingy behavior, changes in communication patterns (such as speaking louder or more impatiently than usual), and increased irritability or emotional outbursts.

How Can You Prevent Nurse Burnout In Your Workplace?

As a leader or administrator, you play a key role in addressing nurse burnout before it’s too late. By fostering a work environment that encourages strong interpersonal relationships, a healthy work-life balance, and offers support to avoid physical and emotional exhaustion, you can create an enjoyable workplace that empowers nurses to be at the top of their game.

Developing Strong Interpersonal Relationships

Connection is a must. The greatest motivation among mankind is the feeling of human connection and acceptance. Employees, especially nurses, are in need of emotional validation from their team because they are expected to be emotionally available for all of their patients, regardless of the circumstances they experience.

Checking in with your nursing staff to triage how they’re mentally and physically functioning and feeling is just one proactive step you can take as a leader. Using the information you gather, you can adjust policies or make schedule changes that can benefit your staff and, subsequently, your patients. This could be achieved by implementing monthly anonymous surveys or even hosting one-on-one meetings. Either way, you have to act now.

Encouraging Work-Life Balance:

Encouraging and demonstrating a work-life balance is vital in preventing nurse burnout and protecting overall nurse health. Nurses face demanding and high-stress work environments, making it essential to establish boundaries between work and personal life.

By encouraging a healthy work-life balance, nurse administrators and healthcare organizations allow nurses to recharge and replenish their energy outside of work hours. This includes promoting reasonable work schedules, adequate rest periods, and ensuring that nurses have time for personal activities, hobbies, and quality time with loved ones.

Creating a culture that values self-care and recognizes the importance of downtime not only supports nurses’ physical and mental health but also enhances their job satisfaction and engagement. When nurses have the opportunity to recharge and take care of their personal needs, they are better equipped to provide quality care, maintain resilience, and reduce the risk of burnout.

Providing Mental Health Support Programs

Providing mental health support programs is a must when it comes to helping nurses avoid burnout and maintain their well-being. These programs offer nurses a safe space to address and manage the stress, emotional challenges, and psychological demands that come with their profession.

By offering access to therapeutic or counseling services and support groups, nurses can receive the assistance they need to navigate the unique pressures they face. These programs also provide nurses with coping strategies, stress management techniques, and tools to enhance resilience.

Additionally, mental health support programs promote self-awareness and help nurses recognize the signs of burnout early on, enabling timely prevention and intervention. When nurses have access to mental health support, they feel valued, understood, and validated, which can boost morale and job satisfaction.

Implementing Training Programs:

Implementing training programs is essential for healthcare workers like nurses. These programs provide nurses with the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to navigate the challenging demands of their profession effectively. Training programs can focus on stress management techniques, resilience-building strategies, and self-care practices.

By equipping nurses with the tools to manage stress and prevent burnout, you better prepare nurses to handle the emotional and physical challenges that come with their work. Training programs can also address communication skills, conflict resolution, and effective teamwork, which contribute to a supportive work environment and reduce the main sources of stress.

Moreover, continuous education and professional development opportunities keep nurses engaged, motivated, and up-to-date with the best practices, preventing feelings of stagnation or burnout associated with a lack of growth.

By investing in comprehensive training programs, healthcare organizations demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of nursing professionals, fostering a culture that values continuous learning, personal growth, and resilience, ultimately mitigating the risk of burnout.

Contact Dr. Buzz Mingin To Help Prevent Nurse Burnout in Your Workplace

Burnout has had devastating effects on the nurse workforce, but there are ways you can help your healthcare organization recover. You don’t have to navigate nurse burnout prevention alone.

Empower your nurses to be their best so they can provide the best care. Contact Dr. Buzz Mingin today for a free consultation.

Using his years of experience with individuals and organizations big and small, along with his research in the field, Dr. Buzz can help you identify your organization’s main pain points and implement strategies to counteract or prevent all types of burnout, including teacher burnout.

Hire Dr. Buzz to Speak