Acknowledging Burnout: How to Help Nurses

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone in some way, but now many are shifting to pre-pandemic ways of life.  Businesses have called employees back to the workplace or announced their plan to bring them back on-site. But for healthcare professionals, especially nurses, the trauma and stress of the past three years is not so easy to leave behind.  

Nurses have been on the front lines of this pandemic, working tirelessly to care for those who have fallen ill, often risking their health and safety. As we move into a post-pandemic world, it is important to acknowledge the toll this has taken on nurses’ mental health and provide support for those struggling. 

Burnout is a specific type of work-related stress that is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion is the most important indicator of burnout in nurses, and it can profoundly impact their mental and physical well-being. 

Nurses have faced enormous challenges during the pandemic, including working long hours with no respite, dealing with the emotional toll of being a pseudo-family member for patients unable to see their loved ones, and struggling to separate work and home life. It is important to recognize the immense sacrifices that nurses have made in order to care for their patients during this difficult time. 

However, it is also the responsibility of healthcare systems not to normalize burnout as “going with the territory” of nursing. Also, it is crucial to address burnout without stigma. Amanda Choflet, DNP, RN, of San Diego State University School of Nursing, highlighted this importance in a video published on MedPage Today. 

I also, finally, really would love for nurse leaders to understand and take to heart what we know, which is that nurses who are made to feel isolated or weak because they’re asking for help are potentially at increased risk for death by suicide. So I just…I want people to understand that the stakes are high and that we have an opportunity and an obligation to ensure that our culture affirms help-seeking behavior. 

Acknowledging the mental health toll of the pandemic on nurses and creating a culture that supports their well-being is a step toward preventing burnout and other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

It is true that finding solutions to burnout can be challenging, but the consequences of not doing so are already rippling through the nursing profession. Today’s shortage is reaching urgent levels, with frontline nurses feeling the brunt of being stretched thin, enough so that some are even refusing to work in conditions that exceed their ability to provide good care. Addressing burnout is not only important for the well-being of individual nurses, but it is also critical for the sustainability of the healthcare system. According to Nurse.com, recruiting and retaining good nurses could be the most critical area of focus in determining a hospital’s success.  

At Equiliem, we talk to nurses who have experienced burnout. It’s clear that acknowledging and addressing burnout is essential for nurses’ well-being and the healthcare system’s sustainability. Meanwhile, for some individuals, the best path may be to find an alternative to bedside care.  

We want to work together with our hospitals and health systems to support those who have supported us throughout the pandemic and beyond. We don’t have all the answers, but we want to be part of the conversation. 

Where to Begin if You or a Nurse You Know Needs Help 

For nurses who may be struggling with burnout or other mental health conditions, various resources are available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) is available 24/7 for anyone in crisis. In addition, there are many resources specifically for nurses, including the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative, which offers resources and support for nurses’ well-being. In the New York area, resources such as the New York State Nurses Association and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s Employee Assistance Program are available. 

About Equiliem

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