Nurse Burnout: An Occupational Hazard
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 400,000 new nursing jobs will be created by the year 2026. Adding to that, a study conducted in five states (California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska) stated that the average pay for nursing jobs clears $85,000, with California surpassing five figures.
Nursing is one of the most popular as well as a demanding field in the United States. It has led to a deficit of available openings in nursing schools. Due to which the gap between demand and supply for skilled nurses is growing rapidly. This results in nurses being flooded with work more than they can handle.
A 2017 survey of 600 professionals by RN Network on nurse burnout and concluded that nearly 50% of nurses working in the United States have considered resigning from the nursing profession. According to another study, more than a third feel burned out. Overwhelming paperwork, feeling overworked, and lack of job satisfaction has been the core reasons behind this burnout.
With a large population getting older and sicker, demand and work of nurses are not set to decline soon. A Health Services research concludes that by 2030, there will be 70 million people over the age of 65, out of which an estimated 50 million will have at least two chronic health conditions, and 14 million will have Alzheimer’s.
Nurse Burnout and Their Causes
A nurse’s duty comes with an ever-increasing physical as well as emotional cost. They are often expected to aid patients for longer hours with less support. Besides, in their workplace, nurses come across many stressful situations, which ultimately accelerates their burnout.
Burnout can severely affect someone’s personal as well as professional life. In some severe cases, healthcare professionals may opt for resignation or early retirement. The reason for burnout can vary for different people. For instance,
- Many nurses experience the emotional burden of losing patients and assisting their distressed family members, which can be overwhelming at times.
- Besides, longer shifts consisting of more than 12 hours, usually lead to stress and exhaustion. Nurses working in highly stressful conditions such as nurses working in night shifts or an emergency unit may be particularly exposed to even more burnout.
In many cases, individual personality is the leading cause of nursing burnout related symptoms. A 2014 study by Akron University reports that nurses who join the healthcare field intending to help others might be more vulnerable to the signs of burnout as they perceive their failures or successes related to their job very personally. Sometimes, the constant pressure to meet social expectations and lack of independent decision-making leads to mental as well as physical exhaustion.
How to Cope with Burnout – Listen to Your Body and Mind
Every individual has their own ways to deal with stress. For this same reason sometimes, it becomes very challenging to recognize burnout symptoms in a co-worker or even yourself. Stress can be emotional, physical, or environmental. Some nurses may come across certain signs of burnout, which might differ from their peers. At times, they may also encounter burnout symptoms that may have a higher impact on their personal life compared to others.
In such situations, it is crucial to identify symptoms in the early stages before it becomes overwhelming to handle. Certain indications of burnout may seem unimportant sometimes but it’s always important to heed attention to your mind and body. All the healthcare professionals, especially nurses, should remain familiar with inherent burnout symptoms in order to deal with them promptly.
While all nursing jobs are susceptive to burnout, there are some specific positions where cases of burnout are more common. For example, emergency response and oncology departments encounter the highest number of nurse burnout cases.
In many cases, Oncology nurses build relationships with cancer patients over the lengthy and emotional journeys of battling cancer. These nurses may experience intense feelings of loss as they face higher cases of patient death.
The foremost and the most crucial step of fighting burnout is to recognize its warning signs. It is advisable to take the symptoms seriously and intervene as early as possible. There are many hospitals which offer employee assistance programs for nurses that include free phone counseling and mental health sessions, or other forms of self-care and stress management support. For those who need more advanced assistance, pastoral counseling professional support groups, and therapy are some other source at their disposal.
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