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Nurse shortage and burnout

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Amid a national nurse shortage, there is a growing concern that high levels of nurse burnout could adversely impact patient outcomes. Nurse burnout is real, although some like to avoid or downplay it. Some nurses fear that if they speak up, they will not be heard or worse… will be retaliated against in some way.

In addition to worsening the wellbeing of nurses themselves, burnout can lead to problems with patient safety and hospital finances.

A nurse’s workload, work / life balance and a nursing shortage are all contributing to stressed nurses. A study conducted by the Department of Health earlier this year found that 70 percent of nurses feel burned out.

Also, nearly half of the nurses surveyed said their workload has increased. One-quarter of those surveyed reported a change from eight- to 12-hour shifts.

Staffing isn’t going to improve anytime soon. Nursing job vacancies are increasing at an accelerated rate.

Hospitals and health care systems are struggling to find enough qualified nurses to fill the job, particularly in critical and specialty care units. Hospitals post a job listing for registered nurses an average of five times on different sites in the first quarter of this year, which points to a highly competitive hiring environment for hospitals in nurse recruitment.

This employment crunch has led to larger workloads and longer hours for nurses. But it’s not just more work and longer hours that is causing stress. One nurse said she used pen and paper when she started in the profession 38 years ago. Now, they have to spend a lot of their time on computers and other technologies. They have to be computer and electronically savvy. Even just fifteen or 20 years ago, they didn’t have to be. That’s a big role change for them.

Nurses are also playing a larger role in the overall management of patient care. They are providing more care coordination, post-discharge management and pre-discharge work. Many nurses are taking on more leadership roles in health systems. Nurses have a great influence in patient care and often  have bigger roles, which can lead to overwork.

Nurse burnout can impact patient infections, patient satisfaction and quality of care negatively. If a nurse shows up to work and is feeling tired, disengaged and unappreciated, they are not going to provide their best care. They may make a mistake, such as forgetting to check in on a medication or overlook a crucial laboratory value.

Burned out nurses can also have a financial implication on hospitals. Nurses leaving the job means hospitals have to recruit, hire, train and orient new nurses. That costs a lot of money, not to mention what constant turnover can do to staff morale.

Regardless of what techniques are implemented in the retention of nurses, burnout is in need of immediate attention.

Simply put, the country’s nursing staff is experiencing a greater workload, at the same rate of pay, with no additional network support, with their morale compromised. All of these factors are playing a hazardous role in the care that patients are receiving. The trickle-down effect of a nurse’s burnout renders patient care in potential jeopardy.


 

With over thirty years of experience in patient care, healthcare marketing, business development and operations, Marilen Tronqued-Lagniton is a Certified Lead Auditor for ISO 9001:2015. She earned a MBA for Healthcare Administrators at the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA; certificate for Patient Safety Officer Course, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI, Cambridge MA); certificate for Advanced Leadership Course, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Email mtlagniton@gmail.com.

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