How To Fight Nurse Burnout in Long-Term Care

September 8, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

How to fight nurse burnout in long-term care

Nursing has steadily grown to be one of the most in-demand jobs in America. Unfortunately, it's also part of a field that's well-known for burnout—and COVID-19 hasn't made things any easier. A 2021 study placed low morale and burnout as the top challenge for 35% of nursing leaders, and their primary concerns were mental health, well-being, surge staffing, training, and reallocation.

When it comes to dealing with burnout, long-term facilities are no exception. Continue reading to learn more about nurse burnout and how to prevent it in long-term facilities.

What Is Nurse Burnout?

Put simply, job burnout is work-related stress that puts someone in a state of physical or emotional exhaustion. It also comes with a reduced sense of accomplishment and a loss of personal identity. For the individual, consequences can include excessive stress, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and substance abuse. 

Ultimately, burnout plays a significant role in a nurse's happiness in their job. Commonly cited reasons include feeling overworked, not enjoying the job, a lack of patient time, and too much paperwork.

As a consequence of nurse burnout, organizations and patients can experience issues:

  • Patient safety: A burnt-out nurse may be dealing with emotional exhaustion, distractions, less motivation, and other factors that could affect their ability to be thorough and safe while providing care. One study found a significant correlation between nurse burnout and urinary tract infections (UTIs) and surgical site infections.
  • Patient and family satisfaction: As nurses become tired and gain a negative mindset toward their work, they may struggle to provide compassionate, high-quality care.
  • Turnover rates: As you can imagine, nursing burnout statistics say that high levels of burnout impact turnover rates, which contributes to the unfortunate cycle of nursing shortages.

Types of Burnout

Keep in mind that burnout looks different for everyone. Some nurses will be more frustrated by their work-life balance, while others might be upset about their relationship with administrators. It's essential to identify the cause of the burnout to find an adequate solution.

Generally, nurses can experience the following types of burnout:

Patient-Related Burnout

Though working with patients is often one of the most favored parts of the job, poor patient outcomes can put significant emotional strain on nurses. In environments like intensive care units (ICUs) and long-term care facilities, patient deaths can be common, so coping strategies are essential, especially for nurses who form strong bonds with their patients.

The nature of patient care can also be challenging. For instance, long-term care facilities require extensive support from nurses, such as physical support for fall risks and rigorous medication schedules. Those in high-stress specialties like emergency are also more likely to struggle with the demands of their patients.

Work Environment Burnout

On the other hand, nurses may deal with management issues in their workplace, like poor administrative support or interpersonal issues. When nurses don't feel heard or struggle to work with or get support from their team, they can become frustrated and dissatisfied with the workplace.

Work-Life Balance Burnout

A poor work-life balance can also bring about burnout. Scheduling can be notoriously grueling for nurses, as they sometimes work long, 12-hour days or overnight shifts. Staying late is also common, whether mandated or volunteered for the good of the patients. Without appropriate self-care and time for oneself, a bad work-life balance can quickly become an issue.

How to Identify Nurse Burnout

How to prevent nurse burnout

Unfortunately, nurse burnout can be tough to spot, especially if nurses are trying to hide their exhaustion because they want to look like good employees. Identifying nurse burnout requires connecting with nurses and paying close attention to their behavior. Some signs of nurse burnout include:

  • Frequent exhaustion
  • Absenteeism or lateness
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Negative reactions to change
  • Appearing disengaged or dissatisfied
  • Depersonalization, or a numb response to emotional situations

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout

Being proactive and preventing nurse burnout before it hits is essential to helping nurses do their best. It calls for a comprehensive approach to managing the work environment. Consider the following evidence-based practices for how to avoid nurse burnout:

  • Improve scheduling: Try to keep shifts to a maximum of nine hours, and require breaks, and limit overtime where possible. Consider advocating for a mandatory vacation day policy that ensures they take time off. It may not always be possible, but consulting with nurses individually to find the best shifts for their personal schedules always helps.
  • Provide support structures: Give nurses the resources they need to enact this list of strategies. Offering employee assistance programs is a great way to create opportunities for counseling, self-care workshops, and educational programs. Research has found that 75% of nurses say these kinds of programs considerably or completely changed the way they perform their duties.
  • Cultivate teamwork and a positive work environment: A strong team dynamic can play a big role in job satisfaction and engagement. Spend some time on team building and interpersonal relationship skills, and always include the human element with compassion and positivity. Train leaders on burnout prevention, too, and make sure they know the signs.
  • Encourage self-care: Ensure nurses take time for themselves, and advocate for the resources they need to do so, like time off and appropriate pay. Encourage proper exercise, enough sleep, and spending time on hobbies and with family and friends. Read more about self-care tips for nurses from Mental Health First Aid.
  • Optimize their work: Try to improve nurse-to-patient ratios and minimize non-clinical work. While nurses are trained clinical professionals, many spend a lot of time on non-clinical work. See if you can have non-clinical staff do these jobs, such as following up with patients or connecting them to support programs.
  • Empower them: Make sure nurses' voices are heard. Include them in policy decisions and provide autonomy. If you have problems with relationships between administrators and nurses, try to address them. Many nurses who consider leaving the field don't feel respected by their administration.

If you identify employees who are clearly burned out while implementing these preventative measures, you should encourage them to take time off. While recovering from nurse burnout may take time, it's incredibly important to encourage them to take the first step. When they return to work, they'll be ready to give their patients the best care possible.

Reducing Nurse Burnout With the Right Tools

Despite the risk for burnout, nurses can enjoy long, fulfilling careers if the right support is in place.

SmartLinx is a comprehensive workforce management program designed with healthcare and long-term care facilities in mind. Capabilities include schedule optimization, performance analytics, employee engagement tools, and more, all of which can help reduce the stress put on nurses.

Streamline your nurse's experiences, create healthy schedules and reduce friction with self-service tools for scheduling, accessing payroll data, and other everyday tasks. Learn more about SmartLinx or reach out to us today to request a demo and take the next step in keeping your long-term care nurses happy and healthy in their careers.

Reduce nurse burnout with SmartLinx

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