No industry and its employees are safe from this occupational hazard, statistics have shown that healthcare workers are prone to succumb to burnout. Even before the global pandemic hit, healthcare workers were already overworked and combating burnout. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over 40% of nurses suffer from this silent ailment, while over 35% of them are nurses in direct care.
So, we know burnout is a problem, how can traveling nurses help prevent the onset of burnout?
Signs of Burnout
It’s imperative to recognize the symptoms of burnout before it consumes you. If overworked, exhaustion can set in, which can lead to mistakes while on the job. It can also lead to high turnover, since the nurse just isn’t getting the support or relief they need.
Another sign of burnout is once engaged nurses are no longer engaging with employees. Their demeanor has changed and aren’t as personable as they were. If they were welcoming to other employees, they might say, “hi”, and don’t engage. They may dread coming into work and have a feeling of being overworked and under-appreciated.
Nurses who once volunteered for shifts or even activities, are no longer signing up. It can be due to exhaustion, or the feeling of their work being under-appreciated.
Lastly, in addition to mistakes, they might be receiving more complaints from patients, or even fellow nurses. Whether exhaustion has set in, or worse, apathy, this is a major red flag.
Nurses are already in a high-stress position, so it’s critical hospital leadership is proactive in making sure their nurses feel appreciated and have the proper balance.
What Can The Organizations Do?
It’s essential the organizations take a proactive approach to burnout. If they are reactive, burnout has probably already set in and they’ve already lost their employee. Recognizing burnout is just the first step, it’s important they take action.
While nurses might look fatigued, burnout goes beyond a physical appearance. Burnout is also a mental ailment, so it’s not necessarily seen at surface level.
Leadership should develop a personal plan for each of their nurses. Nurses may be dealing with financial hardships, family issues, or just a lack of engagement. So, coming up with a personalized approach can go a long way. Setting up weekly one-on-ones to check in can help derail issues and put the nurse at ease, knowing they have a support system at work.
Leadership needs to listen to feedback - positive or negative. Is the hospital dynamic failing? Nurses want to be heard as they are on the front line. Issues can be quickly uncovered and a plan to address can be created. The follow-up and implementation of fixes needs to be carried out.
Lastly, and if it’s possible, hospitals need to do their best at balancing shifts. This will avoid overworking. If a nurse signs up for a 48-hr shift, it’s important that their shift ends at that time and don’t take advantage by asking them for more hours. You’re just asking for burnout. Do your best to balance the shifts out.
As an example, HCTN leadership listened to feedback on burnout and provided the Health Stream Course: Resilience In Healthcare.
What Can The Nurses Do?
First, you’re on the road away from family and friends. It’s important to establish your support system. Create your core group of people you can reach out to and set aside time everyone can talk. Sometimes you just need to talk and vent. Whether it’s about the hospital, a particular patient, or a co-worker. We all need to air out our grievances. Letting them fester can lead to resentment.
We’re humans, and we all need person-to-person interaction. You’re spending significant time in a city, so consider joining a local group or club, whether it’s a book club or maybe a gym. You can go on Google and do a search for local clubs. If you’re active on Facebook, there are different groups you can join. Try to build up connections and relationships with people outside of work.
Next, recognize the amount of stress and work you can take on. Nursing is a high-stress job, and as a travel nurse, you’re always on the road away from friends and family, so the stress can pile on. Only you know how much you’re able to deal with on a daily or weekly basis. If you can’t handle any more hours after your shift, don’t take any additional hours. It’s in our nature to want to please everyone, but it’s not possible. If you’re unable to take on work, it’s well within your right to say no.
Take Care Of Yourself
This one is vital. You’re taking care of others, but you need to take the time to take care of yourself. It’s important to get plenty of sleep. At the end of your shift, turn off your phone, pager, or any other communication device and sleep. It’s how your body recovers.
Healthy eating also goes a long way. When you feed yourself junk, your body will wear down. You know what they say - junk in and junk out.
Care for both your physical and mental well-being. Along with a healthy diet, creating an exercise routine. It can be as simple as going for a walk on your break or a daily 30-minute routine. Exercise can help rejuvenate your mind and give you a boost before heading in for a shift.
Also, take care of your mental well-being. Take advantage of any therapy or counseling services offered. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or reaching out to talk to someone. Talk to HR and find out what services are available to you.
Lastly, set those work-life boundaries. When you shift ends, leave it at the door and leave anything work-related at the hospital. Focus on you and the activities you enjoy. Be sure to let everyone know that when your shift ends, communication may be sparse.
Burnout can lead to turnover, exhaustion and cynicism which can lead to poor physical and mental health. Taking a proactive approach to burnout will lead to prevention of these symptoms and more satisfaction during your shift.