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August 3, 2023

7 Strategies for Hospitals to Address Burnout in Nursing

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Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

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The recent pandemic amplified the extraordinary pressure on healthcare systems, exacerbating an already prevalent issue: nurse burnout. The effects are alarming, with data revealing that 100,000 nurses left the workforce during the pandemic, and a forecasted 900,000, nearly one-fifth of the total 4.5 million registered nurses, planning to leave by 2027. 

Such a mass exodus would threaten the national healthcare system if not addressed promptly. In a recent survey, many nurses reported feeling emotionally drained (50.8%), used up (56.4%), fatigued (49.7%), burned out (45.1%), or at the end of their rope (29.4%) “a few times a week” or “every day.”

Fortunately, hospitals have several strategies at their disposal to alleviate these pressures and prevent burnout in nursing. Here are seven key strategies that hospitals can adopt to ensure nurse well-being.

1. Support nurses’ mental health & well-being

Nurses are routinely exposed to high-stress environments, making them prone to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Hospitals can foster a supportive environment by providing access to mental health resources, including confidential counseling services, stress management workshops, and mindfulness programs. Of course, it’s not enough to just offer these services. The root issues need to be addressed, too. 

2. Improve nurse-to-patient ratios

A high nurse-to-patient ratio is a key contributing factor to nurse burnout. The higher the patient load, the less individual attention a nurse can provide, leading to stress and fatigue. Implementing a manageable nurse-to-patient ratio will reduce nurses' stress levels and enhance patient care quality.

The California Nurses Association (CNA), an affiliate of the nation’s largest organization

of registered nurses, National Nurses United (NNU) discovered that lawfully mandated minimum nurse staffing levels at hospitals have been proven to save lives and enhance patient care. 

3. Train leaders to recognize & address nurse burnout

Burnout can sometimes go unnoticed until it's too late. Leaders and supervisors need training to recognize the signs of burnout and should have a system in place to address it. Leadership styles that promote open communication, emotional intelligence, and empathy can help in the early detection and mitigation of burnout symptoms.

4. Reduce non-clinical tasks

Nurses often find themselves juggling clinical responsibilities with administrative tasks, contributing to longer working hours and heightened stress levels. A cross‐sectional study found, “Around one‐third of shift time is devoted to non‐nursing tasks.” Streamlining these processes or assigning non-clinical tasks to dedicated administrative staff frees up nurses to focus on patient care.

5. Ensure nurses take breaks and meals

Regular breaks are essential for maintaining both physical and mental health. Hospitals should encourage nurses to take regular breaks, eat, and hydrate frequently, even during busy shifts. Leadership must emphasize the importance of self-care and help create a culture that prioritizes employee health.

6. Offer continuous training

With constant advances in medical technology and practices, it is critical for nurses to stay updated. Providing continuous education and training opportunities can empower nurses, reduce the anxiety of handling new equipment or procedures, and ultimately help in preventing burnout.

One way to offer continuous learning is through immersive virtual reality training for nurses. UbiSim is a platform with scenarios built by nurse educators, specifically for nurses. Check out how Boston Children’s Hospital uses UbiSim to offer continuous training to its nurses.

7. Provide opportunities for professional development

Career stagnation can lead to feelings of discontent and burnout. Hospitals should offer nurses opportunities for career advancement, such as specialist training, leadership programs, or opportunities for research. 

A study found “Higher levels of NPD (Nurse Professional Development) staffing are associated with many positive nursing and patient outcomes and provide financial benefit to the organization.”

Conclusion

As hospitals grapple with the issue of nurse burnout, implementing these measures can make a significant difference. Addressing the root causes of burnout and providing resources to support nurse well-being is beneficial for the nurses themselves; it's critical for the sustainability of the healthcare system. Only by prioritizing the well-being of their frontline workers can hospitals provide the best possible care for their patients.

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Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

As an integral center of UbiSim's content team, Ginelle pens stories on the rapidly changing landscape of VR in nursing simulation. Ginelle is committed to elevating the voices of practicing nurses, nurse educators, and program leaders who are making a difference.

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