American nurses are seriously stressed out, with a burnout epidemic sweeping the country. One-third of all nurses in the U.S. report an emotional exhaustion score of 27 or higher, which is considered to be "high burnout." Feelings of stress and anxiety, emotional detachment and chronic fatigue are all symptoms of burnout that can have a major impact on how nurses do their jobs. Here's how nurse burnout will potentially impact the medical industry in 2018.
1. Inadequate Standards of Patient Care
Exhausted, stressed-out nurses are more likely to make poor decisions at work, according to one study. This is because stress can influence decision-making. Nurse burnout is also linked to higher rates of hospital-acquired infections. Forty-nine percent of registered nurses under 30 and 40 percent of registered nurses over 30 experience burnout, according to one study — a sobering statistic for healthcare providers who want to improve patient care.
Judith Schmidt, MSN, RN, ONC, CCRN, CEO of NJSNA explains, "You [nurses] need to take care of yourself first, so you can take the best care of your patient."
2. Staff Shortages
Stressed nurses are more likely to leave their job than nurses who are not, says research. These professionals seek out less stressful positions, boosting nurse turnover rates. The current nursing crisis could result in even more nurses becoming "burned out." In Michigan, for example, there could be a shortfall of 5,296 nurses by 2018. In New Jersey, there could be a shortage of at least 40,000 nurses by 2020.
Carrie Silvers, MSN, RN, clinical instructor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing warns, "Nurses aren't going to stick around if we don't see some changes in their work environment." As more nurses work overtime to fill this deficit, expect burnout rates to soar.
3. Negative Impact on Other Staff
Nurse burnout could have a detrimental impact on the entire workforce at a hospital — something known as the stress contagion effect. This occurs when a stressed individual "passes on" their stress to another person. Consequently, nurse burnout could lead to strained relationships in the workplace and an uncomfortable working environment.
4. Poor Patient Engagement
Medical professionals who suffer from high levels of depersonalization are more likely to experience poor relationships with patients. This could influence a patient's experience in a medical facility and even prevent people from seeking further medical treatment in the future.
Furthermore, a recent study found that 11 percent of the respondents admitted to making a mistake or error because of their fatigue.
The Future of Nurse Burnout
More healthcare providers are investing in burnout prevention techniques to retain staff and improve employee happiness in the workplace. These include stress management techniques, such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, coping strategies and social activities, that help nurses deal with stressful situations. Silvers explains, "Signs of burnout need to be acknowledged by the nursing leadership and the organization... The signs also need to be acknowledged by the nurse."
A tool like the Well-Being Index can also prove useful. This anonymous platform lets healthcare providers assess well-being among nursing staff and track progress. Users can view valuable insights on a customized dashboard and use this information to reduce burnout rates in their medical facility.
Long working hours have long been associated with stress. In a 2012 study, nurses who worked shifts of 10 hours or more were two-and-a-half times more likely to experience job dissatisfaction and burnout than nurses who worked shorter shifts. As a result, some healthcare providers are urging nurses to work no longer than eight hours at a time — something that could reduce burnout.
Inadequate patient care, poor patient experience, staff shortages and a stressed-out workforce are impacting the medical industry in 2018 — and burnout could be to blame. Now, healthcare providers are using a variety of methods to combat this problem. If you want to measure the effects of stress and reduce nurse burnout, demo the Well-Being Index here.