Nursing Burnout is Broken
Here it comes… the final post in the nursing burnout series. The topic today- how burnout is still not viewed as significant as it truly is. In the series list, we shared:
We don’t give it priority. The health of the nursing staff impacts everything. Patient safety, patient satisfaction, outcome measures. You name it. Burnout is the virus that can affect all things. However, since it is a “soft” topic that is difficult to measure and evaluate, it often gets pushed further and further down the list of agenda items. Or gets bumped from the agenda completely! We must see nurse burnout as a priority and give it the time and attention that it needs.
Nurse Burnout is Not Yet A Priority
Nursing burnout is still seen as a “soft” topic. How do we know that? Well, it is still a dilemma that organizations do not know what to do with. That and it is often bumped from the agenda.
Think about it- what comes first? Hospital acquired infections? Fall rates? Suicide screening? Catheter acquired or central line infection rates?
You know the drill. It is those things that we are measured on. The things that cost us money or hurt the organizational budget. Benchmarks that are tracked and then compared across organizations, counties, and even states.
Nurse burnout gets bumped from meeting agendas. Resources such as time or money are not allocated to burnout. The nursing staff keeps working harder and the job continues to get tougher. What is a nurse to do?
Nursing Burnout Meets Big Data
Organizational leaders and c-suite executive types speak in data. They prefer one page handouts, bulleted lists, and facts/figures. A lengthy, wonderfully written narrative just is not going to get through to them. Quite frankly, they don’t have the time to read it!
So, as an individual nurse, what can we do to help nursing leadership realize that burnout must be a priority? Show them the data!!
I use a classic example in my Nursing from Within keynote presentation to highlight the importance of burnout and how it affects the bottom line.
Linda H. Aiken, Ph.D., FAAN, FRCN, RN is a nurse researcher who is currently the Director for the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research and a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. In her and her research team’s work on nurse burnout, staffing, and patient infections, they showed a relationship between nursing burnout and patient infection cost savings.
From the article published in the American Journal of Infection Control:
“In a multivariate model controlling for patient severity and nurse and hospital characteristics, only nurse burnout remained significantly associated with urinary tract infection (0.82; P = .03) and surgical site infection (1.56; P < .01) infection. Hospitals in which burnout was reduced by 30% had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost saving of up to $68 million.”
Let’s read that number again… an annual cost saving of up to $68 million!!!
Maybe sharing this article with the decision makers will help them open up to the fact that nursing burnout is NOT a soft topic.
Patient Outcomes Via Nurse Engagement
A burned out nurse is not happy at work. He or she is disengaged. The nurse who is experiencing burnout is suffering both personally and professionally. And a nurse like that— well, you can guarantee that they are affecting the patient experience.
If we are looking for positive patient outcomes, safety and quality indicators, and patients being satisfied with the healthcare experience… we need a nursing staff who is ready, willing, and able to take care of patients. A nursing group who feels excited to get into work and has the energy to care as much as it takes.
And yes, we need organizations to support their nurses. However, we also need nurses who are accountable to their craft.
Nurses who choose healthy behaviors. Who say “no” to people from time-to-time, setting healthy boundaries. We need nurses to choose themselves and their own-welling, without feeling guilty or selfish. We need each and every individual nurse to focus on solutions, appreciate the positive, and learn from every transformative experience.
If we want positive patient outcomes, then we need healthy, happy nurses to care for them.
Let’s hear from you! Have you ever experienced nurse burnout? What did you do to prevent, avoid, or end it? What can you share with our readers to help them put a stop to nursing burnout?
About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.