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What is nurse burnout?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

Any job comes with the risk of stress, and plenty of jobs also come with the risk of burnout. However, nurses often suffer from a higher risk than almost anyone else. With their fast-paced, intense, demanding and high-stress job, it makes sense that burnout rates are so high.

But what exactly is burnout? How does it affect nurses? And what, if anything, can workplaces do to help mitigate this condition?

Defining burnout

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences takes a look at the phenomenon known as nurse burnout. First: what is burnout? This is a mental, emotional and physical condition resulting from sustained stressors related to work. This can include long work hours, the strain of caring for patients who do not make it, and the pressure of quick decision making.

Other factors include the number of patients a nurse cares for at once, as well as the severity of their conditions. For example, emergency room nurses face the highest rate of burnout. Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses face the second highest rate.

How burnout manifests

Burnout can manifest in feeling detached or distant. Sufferers can begin to feel hopelessness and cynicism. In some cases, victims may even develop depression that can grow severe very quickly. This leads to diminished capabilities at work and more trouble empathizing with patients or their families in a time where they need human connection and kindness the most.

It is possible to cut down on nurse burnout by providing as much support as possible to nursing staff. A well-staffed hospital that does not stretch its nurses too thin with large patient loads and long work hours can also do wonders.