Nurse Burnout: The Main Causes And Risks You Need To Know Of

Nurse Burnout

Nurses are some of the most remarkable people in the medical field. They work hard, have a big heart for their patients, and are always willing to go above and beyond for anyone who needs them. Unfortunately, nurse burnout is becoming more common as time goes on.  

We must help those who need it recover from what they're going through and prevent others from experiencing this issue. This blog post will cover everything you should know about nurse burnout: what causes it, the risks involved, and how to tell if you or someone else has been affected.

What Defines Burnout?

The World Health Organization defines burnout as a common occupational phenomenon resulting from unmanaged workplace stress. There are three ways to characterize it.

  • Reduced efficiency in the workplace
  • Increased mental distance from one's job can result in negativism or cynicism.
  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

A common definition of Nurse Burnout specifically is defined by depersonalization from the job, emotional exhaustion, and a lack of personal achievement.

As shown in this study, some manifestations of burnout can include "reduced energy, insomnia, headache, fatigue," which can result in increased turnover rates and a worsened quality of care. In addition, it can lower the quality of life and organizational commitment to the job.

Why Nurses?

The healthcare industry is immense. So why is so much research being done on nurse burnout?

For starters, nurses make up the largest portion of the clinical staff population at an average of around 55%. They are also one of the most targeted cutbacks, as hospitals attempt to save money by cutting the workforce and increasing hours. Both of which add to burnout rates.

We know that nurses have the highest rates of burnout than any other position in healthcare. And burnout rates have increased by almost 70% in the last decade.

One of the most contributing factors is that nurses interact the most with patients than any other position in healthcare. This situation alone contributes to burnout, and it gets worse for nurses working in the ICU, as the patients are generally in more dire conditions.

How Is This Contributing To The Nursing Shortage?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 9% from 2020-2030. About 194,500 openings are projected each year and many of those result from people who are changing careers or retiring.

So it is a great time to become a nurse, but there aren't enough nurses coming out of school to meet the increased demand. The currently working nurses are thus overworked to make up for this shortage.

Inevitably leading to further burnout, as an increased number of patients signals a higher chance of burnout, as well as longer shifts.

COVID And Nurse Burnout

Nurse Burnout was already an issue well before the pandemic, and it didn't get any better in the midst of it.

The pandemic added even more strain to already overworked healthcare professionals when only critical services were operating. Not only that, but these nurses were risking their health through constant contact with infected patients.

Many nurses could not return to work, and those numbers are cut even lower when hospitals only allow vaccinated staff to return.

Complications of the pandemic also delayed or otherwise discouraged nurses who were still in school, lengthening the gap between professional supply and demand.

What Can Be Done To Improve Mental Health?

There are many reasons the nurse burnout rate has increased. But what can be done about it?

Well, one thing is not to ignore signs of nurse burnout. Acknowledging the problem seems simple enough, but it's important to take action for this issue to improve over time. Otherwise, nurse burnout will continue to worsen.

Four major factors can predict emotional exhaustion.

  • Hospital type
  • Work Shift
  • Providing Autonomy
  • Participation in decision making

Dedicated nurse leaders must exist to improve work conditions and empower nurses to decrease burnout. The goal is to give all nurses more control over their work through a series of Leadership Encouraging Behaviors.

  • Enhancing the meaningfulness of work
  • Fostering opportunities in high performance
  • Expressing confidence in high performance
  • Facilitating the attainment of organizational goals
  • Providing autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic restrictions

What Can You Do To Reduce Your Own Risk?

So what can you do as a nurse to help prevent burnout and protect yourself from the risks involved?

Well, for starters, be vocal—advocate for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that the work is becoming too much.

Secondly, make sure to take time for yourself outside of work. This can be anything from taking a break during your shift to going for a walk or just spending time with friends and family.

Thirdly, maintain a positive attitude and remain hopeful. Remember that things can and will get better.

And lastly, take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and exercise when you can.

It's important to remember that nurse burnout is a real issue that will continue to worsen if not addressed. So please do not ignore nurse burnout. 

If you feel that it is affecting your work, take action.