Running an assisted living or long-term care facility would be impossible without the help of your dedicated nursing staff. A nurse's devotion their patients helps ensure patients receive the best care possible and families feel confident their loved ones are in the right hands. There is no doubt that nurses are exceptional, but they can also feel overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, and burnout.
Because they are so busy taking care of others, they rarely make time to care for themselves. This can lead them to feel dissatisfied with their jobs and affect their well-being. Let's discuss some ways you can support your nursing staff's mental health and provide them with resources to prioritize their cognitive, physical, and emotional health.
What Causes Nurse Stress and Burnout?
Two of the most significant influencers that affect the well-being of nurses are stress and burnout. While stress has varying types and degrees of severity, burnout is more extreme. Generally, nurse burnout in long-term care is a combination of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that leads to other side effects like depression and feelings of hopelessness.
There are many work-related factors that cause stress and burnout. Nurses are often pressured to work long hours, make quick decisions, and take on their patient's worries and needs. Some other causes of nurse stress include managing a large number of patients, constantly multi-tasking, and lack of sleep.
Without regulation, this stress can build up over time and lead to burnout, causing nurses to feel detached or disengaged from their tasks and how they interact with others. Once a nurse reaches this point, they may show symptoms of burnout while at work, including:
- Physical pain, including gastrointestinal problem
- Being unable to cope with certain tasks
- Feeling drained
- Alienation from work activities and responsibilities
- Voicing negative opinions or thoughts about their tasks
- Finding it hard to concentrate
Going through burnout can significantly impact a nurse's performance alongside their well-being and happiness. When nurses experience burnout, their patients and employers can also suffer the effects, as burnout can lead to:
- Lower quality care and attention to patients
- Negative organizational reputation
- Higher turnover rates
- Early retirement
- Replacement costs
Specifically, burnout is becoming a significant problem for nurses in long-term care facilities, particularly those with a lack of education and training on coping with such stressors. While the effects of burnout are enough to cause alarm, you may think your organization or facility does enough to help manage staff stress. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
How Can Employers Support Staff Mental Health?
As mental well-being and resilience become more challenging to manage during stressful periods, your staff needs all the help they can get. As a manager or employer, you can implement a few different tactics to help your staff recover from burnout and learn to manage symptoms in the future before it becomes too much to handle. Adding resources to your organization or facility can also help mitigate staff dissatisfaction and reduce your turnover.
One of the best ways you can help invest in your nurses' well-being is by creating and offering a program that focuses on stress management methods and learning to practice boundaries.
Building Staff Well-Being Programs
Put nursing wellness into action and increase job satisfaction by supporting a work-life balance. Research shows that improving work-life balance can reduce nurses' intention to leave their jobs. This indicates that nursing staff values the ability to have a clear distinction between their work and home life, where they don't have to take on the effects of being a caregiver every day.
With this type of program, you can focus on any significant issues your staff may be experiencing, such as bridging the gap between knowledge and action in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Training your staff will help them feel supported along their journey as they encounter challenges and remind them to communicate their feelings about work-related stress.
As a manager or employer, you can decide how long or often your program continues and what specific offerings you can make available for your staff, including:
- Access to fitness centers
- On-demand videos
- Forums for questions, feedback, and concerns
- Nutritional guidance
- Group activities, such as cooking or yoga classes
- Open discussions about job growth opportunities
- Additional resources and benefits
To help establish a program that works for your long-term care nursing staff, you can hold a meeting and reach out to your team about what they'd like to see in the program.
Let's look at some strategies you can implement in your well-being program.
1. Talk About Mindfulness
Mindfulness is one of the most helpful ways to help minimize the negative thought cycle brought upon by stress. When you encourage your staff to practice mindfulness, they can become more self-aware, making it easier to focus on positive emotions and outcomes.
In your program, you can highlight how important it is to be accepting of your thoughts and emotions. However, you must also stay focused on the present moment and use your energy to reframe the negative aspects into something positive. Mindfulness is also an effective strategy for reducing anxiety, depression, and burnout and leads to more job satisfaction.
2. Encourage a Culture of Well-Being
It's always important to lead by example, so promoting the prioritization of well-being in your work culture can inspire your nursing staff to take their health seriously. From the moment you begin the onboarding process, you should highlight the different resources and support your nursing staff can benefit from and what your work culture does to mitigate stress.
Implementing a wellness program in your facility can improve social cohesion among staff, boost communication, and help your staff build stronger relationships. You may also see an improved sense of community and enhanced quality of life.
3. Examine Nursing Staff Scheduling
There's no denying that working long hours can be stressful, so it's important to look at your scheduling and staffing practices to find ways to improve your staff's workflow. Try to work with your staff to find the best balance for nurse-to-patient ratios. Getting feedback from your team about where they need extra help and support can make them more productive and ready to take on their shift.
Do what you can to limit the number of hours worked per shift so your nurses can experience more work-life balance practices. Adding specific scheduling policies to your program can help you uphold the well-being of your staff and let them know they're a priority.
4. Focus Coping Strategies
Supporting your nursing staff through empowerment and engagement also means providing practical, effective ways to cope with challenges they face as caregivers. Learning to deal with conflict is an important skill, especially when working with long-term patients and concerned family members. Reminding your staff to take care of themselves can help them prioritize their own well-being.
Some effective coping strategies you can introduce to your team include:
- Setting personal health goals for sleep, physical activity, and hydration
- Breaking down daily goals into smaller, actionable tasks
- Relying on social support and accepting help from others
- Employing personal relaxation techniques
- Working collaboratively with others and valuing teamwork
Investing in automation to reduce the manual administrative labor your nurses deal with can help lift the emotional burdens they carry while on the job. While your staff is busy taking care of patients, research shows that 36% of clinicians spend more than half their workdays tending to administrative tasks that could be handled with automation.
While that amount of time already intercepts your nurses' devotion to your patients, 50% of administrative staff say the volume of manual data entry has increased over the past 12 months and 72% expect to spend more time on administrative within the next year.
Additionally, 89% of clinicians must consult different electronic systems at least a few times a day just to access patient information, which can make it difficult for nurses to stay on top of their tasks and feel productive in their daily routines. With the help of automation, administrative labor can be significantly reduced and make it easier on nurses by minimizing or eliminating the amount of effort it takes them to view patient information or enter important data.
The more time they spend on these tasks, the less time they have to meet their other daily requirements, which is why automation is so important. In fact, 93% of clinicians and 86% of administrative staff agree that prioritizing automation is essential for the future.
In addition to employees, managers and executives see the value in automation and AI features in the field of long-term caregiving. In fact, 38% of executives fear their organizations won't be able to keep up with competitors, and 35% believe the patient experience will decline if their organizations aren't able to increase their use of AI in the next one to two years.
General Tips and Best Practices
Whether you decide to create your own program or invest in an outside program, you can still promote your nurses' well-being in many other ways. Here are some tips and best practices to prioritize nursing staff mental health beyond your well-being program.
1. Prioritize Communication
Fostering better communication in your facility is a great tip for getting one-on-one feedback from your staff. Regularly meeting with your nurses and other staff is an opportunity to discuss the demands of their roles and which methods would help boost their well-being and satisfaction. Incorporate staff meetings, performance reviews, and surveys so that your staff has plenty of forms of communication to talk about any issues they're facing.
2. Offer Social Activities at Work
One way to support collaboration and social cohesion at your facility is to organize social activities for your nursing staff. Whether you want to include monthly social events or more minor, fun daily routines, you can adjust to your staff's preferences and see what benefits them.
Organize group activities like workplace awards, weekly competitions, fundraisers, and theme days. Trying out different ways to get everyone involved and shake up their routine can make them excited to come to work and ready to dedicate their day to their patients.
3. Encourage Meditation
In addition to yoga and exercise, meditation is an effective relaxation and mindfulness technique that can improve overall productivity and do the following:
- Lower stress levels
- Improve your mood
- Build foundations for stronger work and personal relationships
- Increase focus
- Improve time management skills
Meditation allows you to reflect on your emotions and thoughts and come to a relaxed mental state. This can help your nursing staff pinpoint their stressors and work through them in a calm, controlled environment before the stress escalates to burnout and exhaustion.
4. Support a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
It's important to encourage your staff to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, but you can also offer options for them to practice these lifestyle changes while at work.
During long shifts, your staff may choose to eat whatever food they have available or go to the nearest vending machine for a candy bar. Many nurses also rely heavily on caffeine. Studies show that nurses who consume too much caffeine through coffee or energy drinks reported poorer sleep and higher stress levels.
Try introducing healthy food alternatives and work with your scheduling staff to implement regular mealtimes. In addition to nutrition, you can also provide access to a fitness center to help your staff increase endorphins and enhance their moods through consistent exercise.
Benefits of Investing in Staff Well-Being
When your nurse's personal wellness suffers, it's difficult for them to be at their best for those who rely on their care. In fact, nurse burnout directly correlates to lower levels of satisfaction and safety among patients and negative organizational outcomes. While supporting your nurses is a top priority, investing in their well-being also spreads the same positive effects to residents, patients, employers, and managers.
Fostering a culture and work environment where you encourage everyone to take care of their physical, mental, and emotional health benefits all parties involved. Here are the benefits of making your staff's well-being a priority:
1. Build Resiliency
Staff members who focus on their well-being can see reduced anxiety and depression, which helps them become more resilient during challenging times and be able to uphold their performance on tough days. Building better resiliency among your nursing staff fulfills your role of showing the same care and devotion they show to your patients and residents.
Resiliency also has many health benefits and positively impacts other areas of your facility as your staff learns to:
- Set realistic expectations and boundaries
- Become more receptive to enhancing their skills and developing
- Reframe their situation into something positive
- Promote optimism
- Feel a sense of control
2. Improve Staff Appreciation
It's important for your staff to feel nurtured, and investing in their well-being shows that you value them and their efforts to keep your residents comfortable and happy. When workers feel valued, they're more likely to show better morale and engagement and contribute more meaningfully at work. Promoting well-being is a two-way street, so your commitment and enthusiasm for caring for your staff will come back around and influence a positive company culture.
3. Improve Staff Retention
With more focus on their well-being, staff members will likely stick around longer, improving your retention rates and reducing staff turnover. Their improved health may also help them feel more loyalty toward your company and make it easier for them to form relationships with residents. As an employer or manager, taking care of your staff impacts company culture and trickles down to help everyone feel valued, including residents and patients.
4. Enhance Your Facility's Reputation
As you commit to improving the health and wellness of your staff, your company's reputation will thrive. Residents, patients, and families will see how your workforce stands out as a community of support, communication, and teamwork.
As your facility's reputation improves, so will your reputation as an employer, which can make it easier when recruiting new talent. Adding well-being programs and best practices to your company will make your job offer look more tempting and stand out from other long-term care facilities.
5. Reduce Costs
Another benefit of investing in clinical well-being is improving productivity and reducing the risk of medical errors, which can be costly. Your reduced costs will also come from your reduced turnover rates, helping you invest more into your staff and resident wellness.
While the cost of replacing nursing staff differs for every facility, it can certainly slow down your productivity as you get new hires up to speed with your policies and training procedures through onboarding and orientations.
How SmartLinx Can Help You Support Your Staff
Taking care of your nursing staff's well-being starts with improving your existing processes. With SmartLinx, you can make a change, starting with the most fundamental aspects of your staff's job.
With SmartLinx, employees can quickly and easily access their schedules and request open shifts when they become available. They can get notifications right to their phones about open shifts, new schedules, scheduling changes, time-off request approvals, and more using the SmartLinx Go App. They don't even need to call out or submit time off when a last-minute conflict pops up, as they can manage their schedules and communicate changes with their teams instantly through the app.
With more control and flexibility, your employees will experience less stress. They'll also have access to the Rain Same-Day-Pay integration right from their phones, so they can gain early access to their paychecks right after each shift, helping to alleviate some financial stresses. Now, employees can focus on what matters most to them—their patients—without the worry of financial instability or the additional weight of administrative tasks distracting them.
Making your scheduling and payroll management functions quicker and more accurate can help put your nurses' minds at ease. As you eliminate common payroll hassles, you'll also benefit from an improved overall workflow and reduced inconsistencies—letting you focus your energy on the needs of your staff and residents.
From optimizing scheduling to tracking attendance and maintaining compliance, SmartLinx's Payroll system can help you reduce labor costs and generate reports within one simple solution. You can also integrate our solutions with your existing systems, making it easy to analyze all the details and keep your facility running smoothly.