What is Nurse Burnout?
Nurses experience one of the most stressful jobs by facing intense challenges nearly each day they enter the hospital. Just having a 15-minute conversation with nurses and healthcare professionals would grant anyone a window into the many challenges nurses face daily.
Nurses don't get to choose what they deal with each day, and often face challenges like patients who fall, aggressive patients or visitors, long hours with back-to-back shifts, difficult surgeries, death and more. These are just a few of the many stressors that lead to burnout in nurses.
When nurses experience burnout, they often quit, adding to staffing shortages and turnover issues at hospitals.
Nurse Burnout Definition
The National Academy of Medicine defines burnout as "a syndrome characterized by a high degree of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (i.e., cynicism), and a low sense of personal accomplishment at work."
Surveys of nurses suggest that burnout is one of the most serious issues that plagues nursing staff daily. A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that burnout is a significant problem that causes nurses to leave — or at least consider leaving — their job.
Ashley Kuruvilla is a nurse practitioner familiar with this crisis. Kuruvilla, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, experienced nurse burnout early on in her career before joining Wachter Healthcare Solutions as the NOVA Business Development Manager and Clinical Support Specialist.
"After working in various Medical-Surgical units as a new nurse and facing the difficulties of staffing shortages including high patient-nurse ratios, having to float to different units, working overtime, and not getting bathroom and lunch breaks I decided to leave bedside nursing after 5 years and pursued other opportunities within nursing," Kuruvilla said.
Causes of Nurse Burnout
There are several factors directly and indirectly impacting nurse burnout. With additional patient care responsibilities, steep population increases, an aging healthcare workforce, and a nationwide shortage of nurses — it's easy to see how nurses can experience burnout.
Nurse burnout has many effects on nurses including:
- Increased anxiety, fatigue, and tiredness
- Feeling unappreciated, overwhelmed, or frustrated
- Desensitized to sickness, violence, or death
- Changing roles or leaving healthcare altogether
- Depression and other negative mental health effects
- Decreased self-esteem or sense of accomplishment
Long Hours in High-Stress Environments, Plus Lack of Support Create Nurse Burnout
In the healthcare industry, it's not uncommon for nurses to work 12 hour shifts, sometimes multiple days in a row.
Healthcare facilities tend to be high-stress environments, even for nurses in hospital wings outside of intensive care units and emergency rooms. Factors that can cause stress in hospitals include strict deadlines, changing responsibilities in a moment's notice, physical harm caused by patients, and seeing sickness or death often.
How COVID-19 Causes Nurse Burnout
The COVID-19 pandemic made nurse burnout worse by intensifying the causes of nurse burnout.
These challenges became monumental with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses nationwide became swamped with thousands of new patients hospitalized from a virus never seen before. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, upended operations and exacerbated the stressors facing already burned-out nurses.
"COVID-19 brought on a whole new set of challenges for nurses," Kuruvilla said. "The uncertainty of how to handle the disease process, nurses possibly contracting COVID-19, the added physical demand related to short staffing, wearing PPE constantly and changing PPE between each patient interaction, the emotional toll of connecting with suffering patients, and the numerous lives that were lost."
How to Prevent Nurse Burnout
Preventing burnout in nurses is a team effort that includes nurses, hospital leadership, and even healthcare technology.
"The advice I would give to nurses dealing with these challenges is to take time to care for yourself," Kuruvilla said. "Nurses are always putting the needs of others ahead of their own and allowing themselves to be overworked, overstressed, and overlooked. Superheroes need to replenish their powers as well."
One of the biggest advocates for nurses can be nursing managers and Chief Nursing Officers.
"Management should always be recruiting," Kuruvilla said. "Management needs to appreciate their staff for their hard work by recognizing, rewarding, and helping their staff get much-needed support and rest."
How Healthcare Technology Helps Reduce Nurse Burnout & Improves Nurse Retention
Technology can serve as an important tool in helping prevent burnout and improve nurse retention. One extremely helpful technology is remote patient monitoring technology. This technology includes devices in patient rooms where an observation technician can monitor a patient's status and condition and interact through video and audio communications.
Enter NOVA (Nursing Observation and Virtual Assistant). With NOVA, an observation technician has a virtual window into the patient room.
NOVA helps alleviate nurse burnout by reducing the need for 1:1 patient sitters and reallocating that staff for other patient care responsibilities.
"NOVA helps provide an extra set of eyes to monitor patients that are high risk or on isolation precautions, which can help manage nurse workflow and time," Kuruvilla said. "The ability of a monitor technician to communicate the needs of a patient or engage a patient helps facilitate the care that the entire healthcare team provides."
Not only are nurses glad to be using a remote patient monitoring solution like NOVA, but patients are also satisfied. One hospital in Southern California using NOVA said a patient wrote a letter to the hospital saying he was satisfied with their level of care and enjoyed the conversations he had with the observation technician.
See how NOVA can help your hospital retain nurses, eliminate nurse burnout, and improve patient care efforts by scheduling a demo today!