Nurses are arguably the most important caregivers in the medical setting. While doctors and surgeons may provide lifesaving treatments and procedures, nurses provide constant comfort and care for each patient. They ensure that all of the patient’s needs are met and that the patient remains healthy and comfortable.
But many nurses experience what is known as "burnout". Burnout occurs when the patient-to-nurse ratio is higher, meaning that each nurse has too many patients to care for. Hospitals experiencing a high turnover rate see an increased amount of nurse burnout because nurses are also tasked with working extra or longer shifts to make up to absenteeism or shortage of nurses.
Soliant.com created the infographic above, which breaks down the cost (in money and in health) of having nurse burnout.
Though nursing is one of the fastest growing labor markets in the U.S. thanks to increased demand, hospitals are seeing an incredibly high turnover rate; it takes an average of 65 days to train a new nurse, during which other nurses must pick up the slack by covering shifts and taking on more patients.
While taking on more patients doesn’t seem terrible, and taking on longer or more shifts can mean more money, this can quickly lead to nurse burnout--and the patient may ultimately be the one who suffers. With higher patient-to-nurse ratios comes increased risk of infection and disease as the nurse’s time is spread incredibly thin. In fact, according to the infographic, adding one more surgical patient to an already overloaded nurse can increase the risk of death in 30 days by a startling 7 percent.
So how can you battle nurse burnout when you feel it coming on?
Watch the warning signs
Though the changes may be subtle, if you notice a shift in your mood or patience level, you may be experiencing the beginnings of burnout. If it takes more than a weekend to restore energy and positivity in the workplace, you may need to take a long vacation if you’ve got time stored up. If you find that your commute home is filled with negative recollections of your day, that’s a serious sign that something isn’t working.
Bond and talk with colleagues, but listen, too
Bonding and talking with your fellow nurses is an excellent way to ensure that your day isn’t just filled with patient interaction. Don’t let isolation fuel your burnout. Bond with your co-workers so that you can turn to someone in tough situations; plus, by listening to them when they need to vent, you can help reduce the burnout of other nurses, which can cause increased sick and vacation days. If you and your co-workers are happy in your jobs, you’re less likely to shove added responsibility on to each other and more likely to pull your own weight.
Remember why you became a nurse and your life goals
Imagine your life in the shape of a pie. Religion, family, career, hobbies, etc. Each section of your life has a slice of the pie designated to it. When nurses feel burnout, it can often be the result of the career slice making up the entire pie rather than just a piece of it. Divide the pie in half. For one half of your pie, reflect on how your pie is actually sliced. On the other half, divide up the pie how you’d like for it to be sliced.
Try and tailor your activities and day-to-day experience towards the pie you’d like to have. Realigning goals and attitudes can help reduce nurse burnout significantly.
Being a nurse is hard. Being happy that you’re a nurse doesn’t have to be.