Stress is present and expected in any working environment. It is sometimes called motivation, but is often looked at in a negative light. Nurses are no strangers to stress. Human and passionate as we are, our bodies will feel the bulk of stress over time.
When you are stressed, you become attached to the situation at hand. However, when you are experiencing burn-out, you actually feel detached and disengaged and your passion dwindles over time as mental, physical and emotional exhaustion takes place. Hamilton and colleagues identified in their article that burnout is a job-related stress which can be prevented and treated.
There are several causes why nurses experience burn-out and here are some of the list:
1. Increase in Nursing Workload
Lately, some hospitals have been cutting back on the number of nurses per shift to save cost. This results in more work for the nurses who go on duty. Dawn Kettinger from Michigan’s Nurses Association said, “It’s really stressful. You’re taking care of six people when you should take care of four.” When a nurse handles more patients, it means less time spent on each patient. Mistakes are likely to happen once the nurse has less time to assess and interact with the patients. In fact, there is a higher risk for infection in relation to a bigger workload and longer shifts because nurses tend to forget the use of infection control practices.
Another cause for burnouts in nurses is selflessness. Nurses are notorious for putting others first. Case in point: they don’t eat, drink water, go to the bathroom or take breaks, unless their patients are settled down and stabilized. When you forget to take care of yourself, you are prone to burnout, according to the American Sociological Association, as cited by Kristina Ericksen (2015). Neglecting your personal needs for the comfort of others can be a great source of stress and resentment. Going hungry with a full bladder is not the optimum condition for a nurse to work in.
3. Lack of Recognition
The lack of recognition for the work you do may lead to burnout if not addressed immediately. A manual by Medical Solutions stated that a simple thank you or job well done from patients and colleagues go a long way. In order to prevent burnout from a lack of recognition, a nurse must be given incentives and rewards for the good work done.
4. Emotional Exhaustion
Nurses not only put to use their physical and mental capabilities, but they put their emotions to good use as well. However, there are times when a nurse becomes attached to a patient especially during their hardest times (Wisniewski, 2013). ICU nurses are always at higher risk of becoming emotionally exhausted because they deal with death and loss more frequently.
Adverse Effects of Burn-outs
The effects of burnouts are a handful, unfortunately, what it comes down to is it inadvertently results in poor patient care. In a study done by Vahey (2010), when there is understaffing, increase in workload, and exhaustion, the patients’ health suffers a great deal. Once that happens, the patients and their families will seek care elsewhere, where they are valued and where they can get the utmost kind of service for what they pay. The institution also loses all the experienced nurses and they get replaced with ones who aren’t as exposed to the work. By constantly replacing the resigned nurses, an institution doles out twice the amount of money than it finds a way to keep the existing roster of nurses. According to several studies done, nursing burnouts lead to an increase with number of mortality and morbidity.
A spokesperson from the Michigan Center for Nursing said that active nurses only want to work in the profession for a maximum of ten years. This is due to increase in levels of stress and burn-outs. A survey conducted in the Philippines also revealed a surprising number of nurses who claimed that the effects of stress and overworking will drive them to early retirement (de Castro, et al 2009).
There are measures you can take in order to curb burnouts. According to Aklema, Linton, & Davis (2008) you should:
- Develop a life outside of work
- Build up your sense of self
- Strengthen your coping mechanisms
- Detach yourself from work
- Delegate jobs if necessary. You are not alone at work, you have colleagues you can depend on when your workload becomes too much.
- Learn to say no. There are times when your manager/supervisor asks you to go on a longer shift, don’t be a martyr. You always have the option to say no, especially if you think you’re already tired. Don’t push yourself too hard at work because no matter how many hours of work you put in, they won’t build a statue of you.
Burn-outs happen on a daily basis, and even to the best nurses. However, this should not detract you from pursuing your love for your work. By addressing the underlying and root issues, the likelihood of the incidence in burn-outs of nurses can be decreased. If the management and the nurses work together in order to prevent and minimize the occurrence of burn-outs, then a healthier environment will be created not only for the nurses, but for the patients as well.