Combatting Burnout from the Nursing Shortage

With the healthcare professional shortage recently increasing in severity, many facilities are left with the burden of tackling employee burnout. As many healthcare facilities experience being understaffed, employees find themselves under more pressure and stress from conditions beyond their control.

The first step in combatting burnout is understanding what is causing it. There are many reasons a healthcare professional might get to this point, including lack of support, being forced to work long hours, taking on tasks that aren’t their own, work overload, and work-related violence. The healthcare professional shortage plays a large role in many facilities experiencing these scenarios.

While it is common for medical and healthcare facilities to experience periodical shortages, being able to combat burnout among employees can help alleviate the unnecessary pressure and ultimately decrease turnover.

To read more about the nursing shortage in a brief overview with current projections, view our previous blog here. Or not sure if your healthcare facility is understaffed? This past blog can help! 

Improving Open communICATION

The first tip in combatting burnout among employees is improving overall communication, as this allows employees the opportunity to express issues that they experience in the workplace. 

Giving healthcare professionals the chance to open up about what they have noticed or experienced while working lets them know that management is there to listen to their concerns and start the process of solving these issues. Often allowing staff the opportunity to have their opinions heard opens the door for learning about problems at a deeper level and might expose what otherwise would not have been known.

One great way to do this is by holding a regular small group meeting with your staff so you are able to gain a better understanding of the various stressors and challenges that they are being faced with. Encouraging honest discussion during this time can help you fully understand what the concerns and difficulties are.

It’s important to play an active role in listening during these discussions by staying engaged and asking questions. One of the first steps in improving employee satisfaction and mental health is allowing a free exchange of ideas and listening while others voice their opinions.

Another great way to do this is by having anonymous surveys or questionnaires. Some employees might not be willing to speak so candidly about issues they have experienced while working. In this instance, group discussions can still be utilized to share some of the findings of the surveys, and maybe others can explain how they feel about the same issue.

Recognize warning signs

It can be helpful for the administration to be able to identify the top warning signs when a facility’s healthcare professionals are potentially experiencing burnout. There should be a clear distinction between employees that are mildly stressed in line with their positions and those suffering from burnout. 

One way to be able to tell the difference between these two scenarios is if the healthcare professional is able to recover to their normal level of physical, emotional, and social energy between working shifts.

If they are able to bounce back to their normal functioning level a week later, then they are experiencing regular stress. But if the next week the medical professional is still headed in a downward direction of being unable to do quality work, then they are most likely experiencing burnout.

Some symptoms of burnout include:

  • Emotional Exhaustion – At the end of the day they are drained and unable to recover, even after time off work.
  • Reduced Accomplishment – They begin to question whether they are providing quality care to patients and whether what they are doing matters. This is often characterized as them asking themselves “what’s the point?”
  • Depersonalization – In healthcare professionals, this often shows up as being cynical or rude to patients and other employees, as well as having a negative attitude. Being detached, callous, or uncaring are all characterizations of someone experiencing burnout. This is sometimes referred to as “compassion fatigue.”
  • Anxiety – While everyone feels anxiety, having constant crippling anxiety relating to work is not normal.
  • Loss of Enjoyment – Everyone has bad days, and sometimes working in the healthcare industry isn’t the easiest, but it is essential for healthcare professionals to feel fulfillment rather than dread. Losing enjoyment in the job is a common sign of burnout.

offer support

While healthcare professionals excel at helping others, they are often the opposite at asking for help themselves. This makes it critical to offer a variety of support services to medical providers. A proactive approach here is best, don’t wait for employees to experience these symptoms of burnout before offering help. Instead, reach out to all staff whenever they have had a particularly stressful experience or seem in need of support.

Offer counseling services that are readily available as needed and make sure that all staff knows how to access them. Giving people the opportunity to vent to a peer or a professional counselor can help alleviate stress and pressure.

honor holidays & vacations

A great way to prevent burnout is by helping your healthcare staff to completely unplug while they are taking vacations. Try contacting your staff as little as possible when you know they are on vacation or have time off, so they can spend this time recharging. This shows them that you respect their free time and that you can manage without them for the duration of their vacation.

In instances where staff will have extended leave, it can be a good idea to look for a temporary to fill their void, as possible. This can also be a good idea to help reduce the burden put on the rest of the staff who can often be asked to manage the work of those who are gone.

If you are currently looking for a solution, AnyPlace MD offers healthcare staffing services as well as hospital management services. Our staffing services offer thousands of highly qualified healthcare professionals including nurses, medical technicians, physicians, and other healthcare support staff, to bring your healthcare facility the best of the best. Call today to speak with a representative to learn more about our available services at (855) 476-5824.

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E. Randy Eckert, MD
Medical Director

Need Bio

Brenda Thompson,
Vice President of Human Resources

With over 20 years of Human Resource and Operations experience, Brenda brings her expertise and specialized skill set to Dental Health Management Solutions, AnyPlace MD and AnyPlace Audiology.  Her successful career includes working as an Executive Director in senior living communities and advancing her Human Resources career to Vice President of Human Resources. Brenda has a specific style and approach to balance risk-management and employee satisfaction.

Shane Stevens

Throughout my career, I have served and volunteered with several organizations including serving as an advisory board member for Concordia University Texas, an annual participant and supporter of Hounds for Heroes, the Special Olympics, and many others. I have also served as a deacon at the Austin Baptist Church since 2009. Shane earned a BS in Long-Term Health Care Administration from Texas State University in San Marcos.