Everyone who works in the fields of health and safety experiences stress. Whether they’re immediately responsible for people’s lives, like a fire fighter, or responsible at a distance, like someone who designs a bridge, having other people dependent upon your ability to do your job takes an emotional toll. So it’s not surprising that bedside nurses, who have perhaps the closest sustained contact with people who rely on them, experience a high level of stress and nurse burnout.
The human cost in lost morale and nurses leaving the profession leads not only to staffing problems but to actual increases in hospitalized patient infections. It’s a lose-lose situation.
It’s a tough task for human resources professionals trying to mitigate the issues that lead to nurse burnout because some of them can’t be resolved — 12-hour shifts, newly technical and demanding report requirements, covering multiple jobs in a short-staffed facility, and so on — that are just part of the nurse’s job. But there are certainly some approaches that can help.
Counsel Toward Specialization
Some bedside nurses would benefit from advanced education that would propel them to new jobs in a specialization or leadership role that might offer more satisfaction. For those who entered the field with a diploma or associate’s degree, there are online RN-to-MSN programs that they can complete while still employed full-time.
These courses combine earning a bachelor’s and master’s of science in nursing in one integrated course of study, and can be especially appealing to nurses who have been at it for a while and feel as if they’re stuck without further credentials but are stymied by the challenge of achieving advanced degrees while holding down their current jobs.
Offer Support Services
Bedside nursing takes a toll both physically and emotionally, and while they’re taking care of others, many nurses forget or feel they don’t have enough time to take care of themselves. But seeing to their own mental and physical well-being isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. If your hospital or nursing facility doesn’t already provide these services, seriously consider adding one of these to avoid nurse burnout.
A Quiet Room
But whether a nurse wants to meditate, pray silently, close her eyes for five minutes, or just have a place to put her thoughts together, a dedicated space that’s quiet and safe from intrusion can be a most welcome refuge before heading out on the floor again. A few comfortable chairs, a ban on cell phones, and if you can manage it, a no-talking or whispers-only policy, are all that’s needed.
A Stress-Management Program
Can you offer regular or occasional classes in yoga, deep-breathing exercises, gentle stretching, and other relaxation techniques? A nurse who starts or ends a shift by letting go of stress is not only going to feel better, but is going to be healthier.
Listen to Their Concerns
Surveys show that the most commonly voiced complaint made by bedside nurses is that management doesn’t listen to their concerns. A strict top-down leadership style could be the culprit, with no allowance for solutions and new ideas to come from the people actually working in the trenches. It’s debilitating to do a job every day that requires following orders like a robot with no voice of your own.
Start from the premise that bedside nursing staff wants to do the best job possible in caring for patients, and give them the consideration that they deserve as professionals. Be open to suggestions and perhaps have periodic individual or group sessions where they can let off steam and discuss what’s on their minds.
Show Your Appreciation
You may not be able to do a thing about relieving work schedules, overcoming short staffing, or giving raises, but showing appreciation is so easy. Think of the many ways that the administration, physicians, and even patients can say thank you, and then put them into action.
For more reading about how nurses can cope with stress and nurse burnout, see this article from the American Nurses Association.