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Four Signs of Burnout Among Nurses


Your nursing staff members provide the foundation of your entire clinical team. They stand at the center of all effective treatment protocols, patient care, and positive outcomes. Without them, your facility simply wouldn’t function. Which means one thing: When they aren’t okay, nothing is okay. When they feel the effects of exhaustion, overwork, lost sleep, poor nutrition, or anxiety, every metric of clinical success around them begins to decline.

Keeping a close eye on nursing staff burnout can improve outcomes and compliance across the board while also preventing a cascade of problems. But in order to monitor burnout, you’ll need to recognize some of the earliest warning signs. Pay attention to these four red flags.

They tell you.

Far too often, nurses approach managers with actual direct, spoken or written requests for help and support, and these requests are ignored or pushed aside. Asking for support takes serious courage in the healthcare field—which may reflect a high level of need. Never shrug off this gesture by instructing nurses to shake it off or “take a breath” or toughen up. This isn’t helpful. Sit down with struggling nurses and find out what they need.

Increased illness.

When we push our bodies too hard, they respond by getting sick. This should be a familiar and accepted pattern in the healthcare field, but surprisingly, this connection is often missed or dismissed. Nurses who are burning out experience lower immunity, increased colds, aches and pains, short tempers, and poor coordination, just like everyone else. Pay attention to these classic signs that an employee needs personal time, counseling, or self-care.

Compassion fatigue.

Does your nursing employee seem more brusque than usual with patients? Is he making limited eye contact or losing patience with children and adults in need of gentle handling? Is he less diplomatic than usual with coworkers, families, or other people in general? Compassion fatigue may mean it’s time to adjust responsibilities for the moment in order to limit the employee’s exposure to constant suffering.

Increased errors.

Mistakes are human, but if your employee is making more small errors than usual, something may be wrong. Intervene and address this pattern before small mistakes increase into larger ones that can potentially impact patient care. Small acts of forgetfulness and minor problems with punctuality or attention to detail can suggest looming problems below the surface. Again, address these issues in a non-judgmental way and focus on resolving the problem, not administering punishment.

Once you identify a potential case of burnout, take action and follow through. Shift responsibilities, adjust workloads, and listen carefully when the employee speaks. Since burnout impacts everyone in the workplace, encourage teamwork and never allow a struggling employee to feel isolated or abandoned.
For more on how to identify and reduce the effects of employee burnout in healthcare, contact the staffing experts at CSS.

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