There is plenty of talk these days about physician burnout, including what causes it, what it can do to your career, and what some doctors are doing to avoid it. But somehow, there hasn't been as much attention given to burnout among nurses.
Last week, RNnetwork, a travel nursing company, released a survey about nurse workload, work/life balance and burnout. Not surprisingly, nurses are experiencing burnout too. In fact, nearly half of responding nurses said they were thinking about leaving their profession.
Top Causes of Nurse Burnout
Much like physicians, nurses are feeling overwhelmed by the demands on their time. Here are the top reasons some nurses are thinking about finding a new career:
• They're feeling overworked (27 percent)
• They do not enjoy the job anymore (16 percent)
• They're spending too much time on paperwork (15 percent)
• They're looking for something new (11 percent)
Are physicians part of the problem?
I wasn't surprised that nurses are growing tired of increasing paperwork and government regulation — physicians have the same complaint. But there were other data points that really caught my attention. Though most nurses reported feeling respected by physicians (65 percent), many have also experienced bullying or harassment on the job.
• 45 percent of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses
• 41 percent have been verbally harassed or bullied by managers or administrators
• 38 percent have been verbally harassed or bullied by physicians
Nurses who reported being harassed at work are more likely to leave the profession than those who haven't — 52 percent to 32 percent, respectively.
How can physicians create a better experience for nurses?
With the country in the middle of a nursing shortage, we all need to find ways to keep them in medicine. Here are a few ways to create a nurse-friendly culture.
• Encourage work/life balance. The RNnetwork survey found that though most nurses are not working more hours than they were a few years ago, they're feeling more overworked. Nursing is taxing, physically and emotionally. Make sure you are offering adequate time off and encouraging your nurses to actually use it. I've found that employees are more likely to use their vacation time if they see their leaders do it.
Ask for feedback. Everyone wants to feel like their voice is being heard. It's important to set aside time for regular one-on-one meetings with your nurses. Allow them to share concerns, frustrations, and suggestions about how to improve the practice. But listening is just the first step. If you really want to gain trust, you need to be ready to act on the feedback you receive.
Remember recognition. Nursing can feel thankless at times, so recognition is crucial. Eric Darienzo, president at RNnetwork, says that recognition can be simple. Handwritten thank you cards, gift certificates, and employee-of-the-month awards all go a long way. "When you are as emotionally invested as healthcare providers are, those little things are important, making sure people know that their peers especially recognize the hard work and effort they're putting in," Darienzo says.
Focus on the team. It takes an entire team to create positive outcomes for patients. Nurses want to work in a practice that promotes teamwork and encourages coworkers to take care of each other. When every member of the team feels valued and respected, employees are happier and they tend to stick around.
Physician burnout is everywhere and nurse burnout is, too. But if we take the time to acknowledge it and find ways to address it, we have a much better chance of being able to work through it.