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Why you need to address nursing burnout. Now.

The Great Resignation has been a strong indication of how significantly burnout has affected frontline workers across industries.  Healthcare—and nursing in particular—has been hit especially hard, regardless of whether nurses are working directly with patients or in administrative roles. For many, burnout means they aren’t just looking for other roles, it means they are also more likely to leave the profession altogether. That’s why it’s critical to help retain the nurses you have now.

What’s fueling the fire?

1. Staffing and Workload.  The ongoing shortage not only affects healthcare providers and their patients, but it also directly affects other nurses. In fact, insufficient staffing is reported as the most important reason that nurses are considering leaving their positions. Less nursing staff equates to a greater workload, longer hours and, ultimately, less time for workers to properly de-stress before returning to work.

2. Emotional and Physical Tolls. The pandemic compounded the usual expectations of long shifts spent mostly on tired feet, with the often traumatic and tragic experiences of caring for seriously ill patients, personal illness and isolation, and the ongoing effects of the pandemic on family and friends.  Those scars will likely endure for a while.

3. Lack of Support.  Many nurses reported a desire to feel supported by their employer – both emotionally and tactically – and cited lack of support as a top reason for considering leaving. Whether it’s not having strong interpersonal relationships with managers or having limited access to mental health services to aid their stressful environments, nurses see themselves as being selfless givers, and want that support to be reciprocated by their employers.

What can you do?

Three key ways you can engage your nursing staff now can make a big difference in the operational health of your organization:

1. Proactively prioritize their well-being. Even outside of a global pandemic, healthcare workers are at a higher risk for burnout, so promoting well-being within your organization should be a proactive (not reactive) effort. Expanding accessibility to mental health and other support services, incorporating additional breaks, promoting employee recognition, and providing a safe environment in which to seek help can all contribute to your organization’s ability to promote well-being, and improve employee engagement.

2.  Ensure you stay competitive.  Beyond the abundance of open nursing roles available across sectors, the allure of high-paying travel opportunities makes it vital to offer a comprehensive compensation and benefits package to reinforce their value.  That may require staying attuned to market rates for compensation, offering greater scheduling flexibility to care for personal and family needs, and even offering personal development and professional collaboration opportunities to show your investment in their value. 

3. Maintain an open dialogue.  Never assume. Talk and really listen to your nurses. Try to understand their pain points, desires and goals to reinforce connection with their leader and your commitment to their success. Don’t avoid the hard topics, including:

  • Creating a culture of safety
  • Managing sick leave
  • Why they might be considering looking for another job
  • Mental health and productivity

Being an advocate and working closely with your staff to help them have a voice in their challenges is important to keeping them engaged.  If your organization can benefit from support for internal communication and even recruiting, &well can help. We understand the complex challenges facing hospitals and health systems, and are experts at creating messages that motivate.