Nursing is an incredibly important component of running a hospital, and nurses often shoulder heavy responsibilities in order to ensure everything runs smoothly, which can lead to quite a bit of stress and exhaustion. Luckily, this does not have to be the case. Management at healthcare facilities can provide helpful workplace accommodations to help stave off nurse burnout.

Preventing burnout in nurses is one of the most vital parts of maintaining an orderly work environment and can be done so in several ways. This article will offer 15 accommodations workplaces can provide to prevent burnout, as well as ways employers can handle burnout if it arises. Read on to learn how to keep your staff’s stress level under control!

Set Flexible Schedules

One reason nurses are so susceptible to burnout is due to long and frequent shifts. While a nurse may work either three 12-hour shifts of five eight-hour shifts for a total of around 40 hours per week, these days are long, busy, and often require hours outside the normal 9 to 5 schedule. Some nurses may end up working night shifts, while others wake up early only to work until very late.

Employers can help combat burnout by setting flexible schedules for their employees. Spreading out 12-hour shifts throughout the week as much as possible ensures that nurses are able to rest and recover in between. Additionally, a combination of night and day shifts prevents nurses from having to conform to an entirely new sleep schedule.

Setting flexible schedules also requires the input of the employees themselves. Ask your nurses to send in their preferred hours, and do your best as an employer to schedule them in ways that fit their needs. Not only will this result in happy staff, but burnout is far less likely when employees feel in charge of their workload.

Increase the Nurse to Patient Ratio

While hospitals or doctor’s offices may be operating on a budget, it’s imperative that enough staff is hired to comfortably take care of all patients. According to an article published by King University, the average ratio is one nurse for every five patients. When this ratio gets too disproportionate, several things can happen:

  • Nurse burnout is more likely to occur. Giving your employees too many patients to take care of is a surefire way to raise stress levels and send them on their way to burnout. Since nursing isn’t a profession where the end of your shift means everything can be dropped until the next day, nurses often find themselves working overtime to ensure that every patient’s needs are met. Hiring more nurses can help prevent the muddling between work and home.
  • Patients receive worse care. Another reason to hire more nurses is to improve the care that patients in your hospital are receiving. When a nurse has too many patients to care for, she likely isn’t able to give her full attention to those she is assisting. Rather, she may find herself rushing around in an attempt to fulfill all of her duties. An increase in staff increases the happiness of the patients, and simultaneously the ratings of your establishment.

Offer Breaks and Ensure They Are Taken

Legally, any employee working a 12-hour shift should be given at least three 15-minute breaks along with a lunch or dinner break. This is especially important in a fast-paced setting, such as a hospital, to ensure that employees are finding time to sit down and have something to eat. When hospital staff, especially nurses, are not well taken care of physically, patients are the ones to suffer.

According to Stat News, nurses often find themselves too busy to take a break. Instead, the needs of the patient are put above their own, and nurses end up going long periods of time without having a bite to eat or resting their feet. As one might guess, the stress of constantly moving can take a toll on one’s body and lead to burnout.

One way that employers can help combat this hustle and bustle is by ensuring that breaks are taken as often as they should be. Creating a break schedule and keeping a sharp eye on employees means that skipping a break isn’t as easy as it was before. Let your employees know that you value your time and their wellbeing, and alert them each day regarding what time they can expect to take a break.

Additionally, if a nurse needs a break outside of the scheduled time, allow it. Having flexibility in scheduling can go a long way toward preventing too much stress.

Provide Healthy Snacks and Meals

Along with breaks, employers should strive to provide healthy snack options for all of their employees. When working long hours, nurses may not have the opportunity to pack something healthy from home or the time to run out and grab something from the store. However, keeping oneself full of nutrients is absolutely crucial in avoiding burnout.

Regardless of the overall cost, hospitals and doctor’s offices must provide some sort of nutrition if they are hoping to avoid burnout amongst their employees. Stocking the break room with healthy options such as fruit and vegetables, along with high-protein snacks, can go a long way with your employees.

The hospital may offer doctors and nurses discounts on cafeteria meals, but this simply isn’t enough to ensure that the employees are taking the time to care for themselves physically. They may find the prices too high and opt for something small and quick from home instead. Allowing nurses to have free meals from the cafeteria may seem costly, but it’s an easy step towards preventing burnout that can be implemented virtually everywhere.

Implement Support Systems for Stress

Though therapy is commonly considered to be beneficial for just about anyone, not everyone has the time or resources to take that step towards eliminating stress. In high-stress positions, such as nursing, offering support systems to employees is absolutely crucial.

Support systems can range widely, and hospitals can implement programs in several ways:

  • Hiring a staff therapist. Having a dedicated mental health professional on-site can encourage employees to seek help when they’re feeling burnout coming on. Make it known to your staff that the therapist is a resource for them specifically.
  • Bring in, masseuses. Physical massage has proven to relieve stress and tension held in the body but can be costly. Another way hospital employers can offer support to their employees is by bringing in masseuses once or twice per month.
  • Hold fun events. While some employees prefer not to think about work off the clock, others respond positively to organised events such as game nights or dinners. Staff events are a great way for employees to bond while de-stressing from the trials and tribulations of the job.
  • Therapy dogs. Petting a dog has proven to reduce stress and can be incredibly beneficial to one’s overall health. There are many different programs out there that bring trained therapy dogs to a workplace or school environment for a cost. Just like masseuses, bringing in therapy dogs periodically can do wonders in reducing overall stress.
  • Hold workout or meditation classes. Yoga and mindfulness are both great ways to combat stress. An employer can offer support by hosting classes during the workday that target relaxation and mindfulness. Offering these classes as frequently as once per week can help to reduce employee stress.
  • Have walking meetings. Both exercise and fresh air are a great way to switch up one’s daily routine. If you need to host meetings with your staff, try doing them while walking around the perimeter of the hospital. This both gives your staff a break and allows you the opportunity to convey information free of distractions.

One of the most important aspects of implementing support systems is establishing a line of communication between you and your employees. Let them know that you’re here to support them through their difficult positions, and encourage them to speak to you if they begin to feel stressed, depressed, or overworked.

A positive connection between the employer and employee can go a long way in preventing workplace burnout, especially in workplaces like hospitals where it can feel like every man for himself. Creating a community ensures that employees feel comfortable speaking up when something is wrong.

Train Higher-Ups to Recognize Signs of Burnout

Another important aspect of establishing communication with your employees is training their superiors not only how to recognize signs of burnout but how to handle these signs as well. When your employees know what to look for, they’re more likely to catch burnout before it morphs into a bigger problem.

There are several different symptoms of burnout that may manifest in nurses. Below are a handful of signs to be on the lookout for when monitoring your employees.

  • Physical exhaustion. Burnout often manifests itself in physical or emotional exhaustion. One way to determine if a person is feeling overly stressed is by monitoring their behaviour on the job. Do they appear tired? Do they move slower or find themselves needing to sit down more often? This could be a symptom of burnout.
  • Increased irritability. Does an always-optimistic employee now exhibit signs of anger or irritability? This could be a sign of burnout. Oftentimes, people will become short with others. If not stopped, irritability can damage workplace relationships.
  • An overall change in behaviour . The easiest way to tell if someone is under a lot of stress is by seeing if their behaviour has changed. If someone appears to be “off” or “not quite themselves,” burnout could be the culprit.
  • Eating less, or not at all. Extreme stress can lead to a loss of appetite in some people. Though it can be difficult to monitor your employees’ eating habits if you notice a nurse not eating enough or at all, it could be a sign of burnout.
  • Not working hard enough. People struggling with burnout may lose the drive to succeed and feel like all of their work is subpar. If you notice an employee lagging behind or appearing not to be working as hard as they used to, check in with them.

What should superiors do once they’ve noticed signs of burnout in a nurse employee? The best way to handle suspected burnout is by speaking with the employee directly and asking them if anything is bothering them. Offer support without blame, and remind them that this will not affect their job position whatsoever. Lastly, if at all possible, offer a break or a day off.

Develop Strong Interpersonal Connections with Staff

Speaking up can be hard to do, especially when one is suffering from extreme stress. If an employee feels as though they don’t have a good enough relationship with their superiors, they may choose to avoid speaking up at all. As we’ve discussed, this can lead to problems in the workplace further along the line.

Developing connections with your staff can benefit you in many ways, aside from preventing burnout. Employees who have stronger connections with their superiors tend to be happier at work and are less likely to brush off something important out of fear of negative repercussions. Though many employers may not feel the need to spend time getting to know their staff, this article has proven just how important doing so can be.

Employers can bond with their staff in several ways, some as simple as having a five-minute conversation with an employee in passing. Expressing an interest in your employees’ personal lives can also help to create a connection. Lastly, holding staff events can increase the comfort between the employer and employee.

Encourage Nursing Networks or Discussion Groups

One way to avoid burnout is to talk about your experiences with others who may be in the same position. While employees may be too shy or embarrassed to seek out discussion groups, an employer can help this process by creating or encouraging networks for nurses to join.

Offering space in the workplace for nurses to gather to discuss their experiences is a great way to encourage discussion. Another way would be to simply address employees about the benefit of nursing networks, especially when combating stress and burnout. You can even do your own research to find online options or support groups for your nurses.

The most important component in encouraging networks is simply letting your staff know that you care and want to assist them in managing their stress. After all, a workplace with a kind and understanding boss is far less stressful than one with someone who doesn’t respect his employees!

Invest in Better Facilities

When managing a hospital budget, it’s easy to skip out on facilities for staff. However, splurging a little bit to create a relaxing space can be the key to preventing burnout amongst nurses. Below are a handful of ways that hospital employers can approve their break facilities to best encourage stress-relief and relaxation.

  • Offer working appliances. A microwave, refrigerator, and coffee-maker are all standard appliances that should be found in any hospital break room. Ensure that all appliances are working and clean.
  • Provide food items. As mentioned above, providing healthy snacks or something as simple as coffee creamer in the break room can contribute to happy employees.
  • Stock the break room with ample and comfortable seating. Ensure that your employees have enough places to sit down when taking a break. Investing in more comfortable seating can encourage taking more breaks throughout the day.
  • Offer places to sleep. Many hospitals have break rooms equipped with bunk beds for nurses working long or overnight shifts. As an employer, ensure that there are enough break rooms with beds to accommodate your employees. Additionally, make sure that bedding is comfortable and sterile.
  • Provide suitable restroom facilities with showers. When spending twelve hours on your feet surrounded by sick patients, spills can happen. Give your nurses a place to comfortably clean themselves up, such as a locker room with clean, working showers. Keep extra scrubs on-site in case any employee finds themselves needing a new pair.

Limit Non-Nursing Work

The daily job duties of a nurse vary greatly depending on the type of nurse, the workplace, and what needs to be completed that day. While a nurse can expect to complete some administrative work as a part of her day-to-day responsibilities, one way that employers can prevent unnecessary stress is by limiting the amount of non-nursing duties asked of them.

For example, administrative work should be assigned away from the nurse and to receptionists or other administrative assistants. If these jobs don’t exist in the workplace, the employer must create them. Hiring more staff goes hand-in-hand with increasing the nurse to patient ratio, as both remove some of the workload from the nurse herself.

Additionally, employers should communicate with the rest of their staff about reserving non-nursing work for other employees. That way, nurses won’t find themselves being asked by doctors or other coworkers to complete tasks that aren’t considered to be in the nurse’s job description.

Offer More Vacation Days and Paid Time Off

While the specific amount of vacation days offered to nurses varies depending on the employer, a total of 12 days per year is considered to be average. Additionally, the amount of unpaid days off per week varies depending on the nurse’s schedule. For example, a nurse only working three days enjoys another four days off, while a nurse working five days a week only enjoys two days off.

An employee suffering from burnout may choose not to take off the proper amount of time to recover for several reasons. One, they may feel as though their paid days off should be saved for an emergency. Two, they may be concerned about money and need to work every shift they can get.

Employers can remedy this situation by offering more paid vacation days to nurses, especially those who appear to be struggling with excessive stress or burnout. While we aren’t suggesting that hospitals go around giving paid time off to anyone and everyone, burnout can be tackled simply by offering employees the time they need to recover without sacrificing their paycheck.

Establishing relationships with your employees ensure that they feel comfortable enough asking for vacation days when necessary. That way, you can count on your employees coming to you when more time is needed rather than blindly giving time out and possibly dipping into the budget.

Offer Specific Feedback

Nurses can become stressed when the quality of their work is questioned or ignored altogether. One way that employers can avoid this burnout is by offering specific feedback on completed tasks to further reiterate what exactly is expected of the employee and how they can strive to achieve that expectation.

Feedback can be offered either in writing or through verbal communication, depending on what works best for the employer. However, it is imperative that this feedback is specific and not generalised. Make it as personal as possible. That way, nurses and other employees can know exactly what they are doing right or wrong.

Employers can also provide written instructions during the hiring process or periodically as new job tasks arise. According to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, written instructions often offer more clarity than verbal instructions and can serve as a resource to look back on if a nurse or employee feels confused throughout the job.

Keep Equipment Updated

Though nurses are a very important component to running a hospital smoothly, oftentimes, their needs, such as working equipment, are forgotten or pushed to the background behind the needs of the doctors and other staff. However, a nurse’s job becomes much more difficult when equipment such as computers are not working properly, and information either has to be handwritten or remembered.

One way employers can alleviate workplace stress for nurses is by ensuring that all nurse equipment is up to date and working properly. Replacing the equipment every few years is a good rule of thumb or encouraging your employees to report any flaws in the current system.

While it may be costly to replace equipment more often than usual, it’s also costly to lose important employees to burnout. Start by setting aside an ample amount in the budget dedicated to improving the workplace experiences for nurses, and go from there.

Provide Materials to Assist in Remembering Tasks

According to Disability Secrets, extreme stress and burnout can cause anxiety and depression, which in turn make it difficult for employees to focus on tasks and remember important information. Nurses specifically can struggle with this, as they are often juggling a lot of patients and tasks. When nurses’ memories begin to suffer, so does the entire hospital.

Employers can provide support to their employees by giving them materials that assist in remembering tasks, such as whiteboards or checklists. Allowing your employees some time before their shift to write down everything that needs to be done that day can ensure that all tasks are taken care of without adding more stress to the employees themselves.

You can also make yourself available for check-ins or meetings with staff that may be struggling with a large number of tasks to ensure that everything is being taken care of. This is all part of maintaining a good relationship between you and your employees, which can go a long way in preventing extreme stress and burnout.

Avoid Consistent Supervision

While you may find yourself tempted to watch over the shoulder of your nurses to see the quality of their work, this constant supervision can add an extra layer of stress that is completely unnecessary. A nurse may find herself working harder than she should when under observation or taking on tasks that aren’t a part of her day-to-day responsibilities in order to prove herself.

Seyfarth recommends limiting these observations to once a week or less. Unless you feel there is a reason to be supervising your employees more often than not, avoiding the process altogether can both save you time and save your nurses from unnecessary stress.

Additionally, instead of performing supervisions yourself, you can bring in an impartial reviewer to observe the workplace. That way, the employer can get a good idea of what’s happening in the workplace without adding the stress of the boss watching over. Lastly, any concerns or praises after observing specific employees should be made clear to the nurses so that they can understand what they’re doing correctly and what needs to change.

Final Thoughts

Nurse burnout, while common, is a problem that should be avoided if at all possible. Keeping your staff happy and maintaining good relationships is a great way to keep spirits up while offering plenty of time off and proper nutrition helps to keep employees in tip-top physical and emotional shape. We hope that this article has offered helpful advice on how workplaces can prevent nurse burnout!

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