Nursing burnout is a well-document and frequently discussed topic. In fact, long shifts — those 12 hours or more — contribute to a 40% greater level of dissatisfaction among nurses and 31% greater risk of attrition. Statistics also point to the dangers of nurse burnout and how it directly affects patient health and instances of death. And if predictions are correct, there will be a major registered nurse shortage across the U.S. by 2030.
With predictions like that, what can anyone do to prevent nurse burnout and reduce the number of nurses who leave their jobs due to dissatisfaction in health care facilities?
It starts with the facilities. One often overlooked nursing burnout aspect is the level of work not related to patient care that takes a real toll on nurses. For example, according to the article, about 30% of a nurse’s time is spent trying to find the tools necessary to do her or his job. But there’s more to it than that. The level of administrative work associated with nursing is astounding, too. They must do it, but, often, when nurses are scheduled for shifts, managers expect them to spend all that time caring for patients and adjust the patient load accordingly. It’s not at all uncommon for nurses to multitask patient care with searching for equipment or other tools and keeping paperwork in order. In fact, some nurses spend an hour or more after their shifts end trying to finish work so they can go home.
Facility managers need to develop better systems to ensure that nurses not only have all the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs but can also perform their jobs completely during their allotted shifts. The most common solution is for facilities to hire more nurses. Not only can that allow for better patient care, but it can result in happier nurses, which can then translate into increased facility cost savings. Mandating ratios might not be ideal but could be necessary given the current burnout rate and the shortage prediction.
Nurses also have some responsibility in preventing burnout — including speaking out when they find health care facility systems that can be improved — and should join conversations about patient care. Nurses want the best care for their patients, so being involved in and helping to engineer the processes and systems that lead to better care benefits everyone. One of the most effective strategies a nurse can implement is understanding her or his own limits and respecting them.