According to nursingcecentral.com, nursing burnout is a major contributor to the global nursing shortage. New data shows nursing burnout is only getting worse, with 95 percent of nurses surveyed admitting to feeling burnt out within the past three years. Almost half (47.9%) of the nurses surveyed said they were either actively looking for a less stressful position or were looking to leave the nursing profession completely. Nursing burnout is the number one cause of nurses leaving the profession, with few hospitals doing anything to address the crisis. Nurses who experience burnout as a result of low staffing face increased workloads which cause physical and emotional exhaustion. This causes more nurses to leave the profession, resulting in a vicious cycle. If you are facing burnout in nursing, it can be beneficial to speak to a nurse defense lawyer from Forshier Law. We understand your situation and can address any adverse results of your nursing burnout.
What is Nursing Burnout?
Essentially, nursing burnout is the result of unmanaged—or unsuccessfully managed—stress in the workplace. Burnout is characterized by an inability or failure to meet the requirements of the workplace, feeling cynical about your nursing career, and a “depleted bandwidth,” to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. Burnout is characterized by a significant reduction in the energy of the nurse, manifesting in frustration, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and a reduction in workplace efficiency. Working exceptionally long hours, along with the following factors can lead to burnout in nursing:
- Issues with short staffing
- A work environment that is consistently high stress
- Turnover in the workplace
- Low workplace morale
- Extremely ill patients
- Lack of sleep
- Consistently working the swing shift or night shift
- Feelings of being emotionally drained
- Interruptions during off-time
- Lack of respect
- Bullying in the workplace
- Little or no workplace flexibility
- High demands in the workplace
Of course, burnout in nursing can lead to high turnover rates and physical and mental exhaustion for nurses. Burnout can also increase the incidents of medical errors and infection rates for patients, reducing a nurse’s reaction time to a level where it could be catastrophic.
Case Illustration of Burnout
Callie, a new nursing graduate began her nursing career as an enthusiastic, energetic young woman committed to excellence in patient care. The hospital where Callie worked experienced budget cuts, resulting in declining resources. Staffing decreased, and Callie struggled to keep up with the increasing workload, unable to spend the time she wanted with each patient. Mandatory overtime was put into place, resulting in Callie working 6-7 days in a row, with extra hours beyond the usual 12-hour shift. Callie found herself eating fast food with little nutrition as she was forced to eat on the run. Her exercise routine went out the window, and even Callie’s personal life was affected. She simply had no time for friends or family. While all these factors certainly contributed to Callie’s nursing burnout, the primary factor was her unsupportive work environment. Callie’s supervisors—and their supervisors—only cared that all shifts were covered. They had little interest in Callie’s personal situation or how her long hours were affecting her. Callie’s nursing burnout began manifesting in physical symptoms such as chronic headaches and backaches, never feeling fully rested, and even extreme mood swings. Callie’s only coping mechanisms included overeating and having a glass or two of wine every night as a means of getting through each day. Eventually—and not surprisingly—Callie made a medication error that, while not fatal, resulted in a doctor yelling at her in front of other nurses. At this point, Callie began questioning her decision to become a nurse, distancing herself from friends, co-workers, and family members. After talking to a friend she knew from nursing school, Callie realized she had to change her situation or change her profession. Callie began to pay better attention to her health, including enrolling in a yoga class. She began an informal support group with peers and visited HR to ask about workshops on stress management. Changes in organizational structure can be difficult—though not always impossible. Because of this, nurses must make changes themselves to avoid stress and burnout, including self-care, time management, strong interpersonal relationships, and changing lifestyle habits.
How Can You Avoid Risking Your Nursing License Due to Burnout?
Nursing burnout can cause nurses to make mistakes they otherwise would not make. These mistakes can jeopardize their nursing license, even leading to criminal charges in some cases. Nursing burnout can be dangerous because nurses must make quick, life-saving decisions on a regular basis. When burnout is present, the nurse may experience disengagement and detachment from their patients. This is often known as compassion fatigue. Nurses enter the profession because they are compassionate individuals who want to help others. Yet the emotional stress nurses are under—along with the regular pain and suffering they routinely witness—can cause them to lose their compassion, developing compassion fatigue. Studies have noted an increase in infection among patients as a result of nurse burnout, along with lower patient satisfaction. In turn, patients who are dissatisfied with their care may file a complaint against the nurse with the Minnesota Board of Nursing. This can place the nurse’s license in jeopardy.
What Steps Can You Take to Help Avoid Nursing Burnout?
With vigilance, it is possible to prevent burnout in nursing before it occurs, as well as treat it when it happens. Nurses can take preventative measures for self-care, including:
- Advocate for more reasonable schedules, with 9-hour maximum shifts. As a nurse, if you are working in a facility that routinely schedules you for 12-hour shifts, be careful not to work too many days consecutively to preserve a sense of rest. While occasionally working overtime hours may be acceptable, consistently working overtime is not.
- Take breaks whenever possible, including taking your vacation days so you can get away, have a change of scenery, and truly relax. When nurses take time off, it creases job satisfaction and decreases the turnover rate.
- Seek support groups to give you an outlet to vent your frustrations. When you and your fellow nurses feel heard, teamwork and collaboration increase exponentially.
- Learn coping skills such as breathing techniques, exercise, and other relaxation routines. These can all make a significant difference in your physical and mental health—which in turn, benefits your patients.
- If your current specialty is simply too stressful, consider switching to a less stressful specialty where you can still exercise your nursing skills, while experiencing less burnout.
How a Nurse Defense Lawyer from Forshier Law Can Help
Having a Lake Elmo, MN nurse defense lawyer from Forshier Law can make a significant difference when burnout in nursing leads to a complaint being filed. Those who choose to work in the nursing profession are crucial to the health of every community. Yet the healthcare industry is largely headed up by executives with little—if any—prior experience in patient care. This can make it extremely difficult for nurses to do their jobs properly and efficiently. Attorney Barbara Forshier understands. Before becoming an attorney, Barbara was an RN. Once she became an attorney, Barbara continued working as both a nurse and an attorney, finally retiring from nursing after 35 years. Today, Barbara devotes her law firm’s practice to defending the licenses of nurses and other healthcare professionals. Don’t face this challenge alone—contact Forshier Law, LLC today.