Burnout continues to be a major problem for nursing and care staff, as well as the healthcare organizations who employ them.
In a recent study of Canadian nurses (RNAO, 2022), a staggering 75.3% reported being burnt out.
This means that the majority of nurses are both exhausted and disengaged from their work and those they care for.
It's unacceptable this is happening to so many hard-working care-givers, and employers can help.
Here, we'll show you how to spot signs of burnout in healthcare workers, and how to change your work environment to stop burnout from happening.
How to spot burnout in your nursing and care staff
To prevent burnout, healthcare organizations need to understand what burnout is, how it shows up in their staff, and learn how to address it.
Burnout is a workplace condition that is caused by unmanaged, chronic workplace stress.
It’s made up of three components – emotional exhaustion, impersonalization, and feeling incompetent or inadequate – leading to reduced efficacy, mental distance from the job, and an impersonal response to patients.
It’s important to understand that burnout is not caused by your staff’s lack of compassion or work ethic, but the result of unmanageable working conditions. We’ll help you with some ways to fix this at your workplace below.
So, what causes burnout?
Causes of burnout
- Long hours (13+ hour shifts)
- Overnight shifts
- Staffing shortages leading to overtime and poor work-life balance
- A high-stress environment
- Having too many responsibilities or being asked to work outside of their skillset
- Moral distress (when the ethical thing to do and what they’re being told to do is different)
- Job dissatisfaction
- Bullying or harassment from colleagues or patients
- Emotional stress from regularly coping with patients and families who are suffering
How these causes affect your staff will vary, but there are telltale signs that your nursing and care staff are experiencing burnout.
Signs of burnout
- Constant tiredness or fatigue
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Compassion fatigue (showing distance or insensitivity to patients)
- High anxiety leading to overwhelm when asked to adapt to changes or take on something new
- Loss or change in appetite or eating behaviour
- Showing signs of depression (low mood, foggy brain or apathy)
- Frequent sickness
How to prevent burnout in your nursing and care staff
Now that you know what burnout is, what can cause it, and what it can look like in your staff, let’s talk about what you can do about it.
Prevention is the best solution
- Read through the signs above and watch for them in your staff
- Proactively ask your staff how they’re doing if you see them struggling
- Have an open-conversation policy with staff so they know they can ask for help
- Provide robust support for staff through benefits or external professionals
- Ensure you have appropriate and safe staffing levels in place (Florence can help)
- Ensure staff breaks are scheduled and not missed, and staff are undisturbed during this time
- Have clear expectations on staff responsibilities and if tasks aren’t done, fix it at the organizational level rather than asking staff to do more during each shift
- Have an open-door policy to receive feedback, where staff feel like they can speak up and make suggestions about the work environment
If your staff are already showing signs of burnout, take these steps (plus all the above) to reduce absences and stress leaves:
- Assess your current shift structure and consider implementing shorter shifts
- Take stock of your staff’s availability and fill gaps by hiring or getting staffing help (Florence can help with the latter)
- Give time off to staff who are struggling
- Provide emotional support through your organization’s EAP
- Offer training to give staff confidence and career progression opportunities
Get your staffing covered
A crucial solution for preventing and addressing burnout is to ensure your staffing levels are adequate.
Having a full staff who are healthy enough to cover for each other when needed and not showing signs of burnout would be wonderful, but the reality is that most healthcare organizations are facing staffing shortages and burnt-out staff.
Florence was created to solve this problem.
We help healthcare organizations make sure their staffing levels are safe and sufficient. With over 5,000 nurses and personal support workers in our network, we’ve got you covered.
You can trust us to vet all our care staff with background, credential and reference checks, and clinical knowledge assessments.
Each highly vetted healthcare professional has a profile and when you find someone you really like, you can easily invite them back.
You may also be interested in: