Losing Employees to Burnout? Here’s How to Fix It

Burnout has officially become a recognized health concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). This type of extreme stress or fatigue can lead to everything from respiratory problems to gastrointestinal issues. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy are all symptoms of burnout.

The healthcare field has higher rates of staff burnout and it’s easy to see why. Working in such a volatile environment as caring for patients with a range of acuity is emotionally challenging. And there are the physical demands of bedside care that can lead to injuries. And on top of that, throw in the stressors of most other shift-work professions, e.g., schedule issues, perceived inability to take a vacation, problems with managers and other co-workers, etc. All of this can leave nurses and other providers burned out, often within a few years of beginning their career.

Avantas research shows that organizations tend to have the highest turnover rate within a nurse’s first two years of service. Data illustrates that if organizations can get an employee to the three- to five-year mark, the retention rate significantly increases. The research also indicates that strictly monetary compensation is a low priority for those that stick with organizations for an extended period of time.

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Even though caregivers are resilient, healthcare organizations should put more effort into ensuring their staff is cared for. AMN Healthcare’s 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses clearly showed the affect burnout is having on RNs. While there was a strong indication that nurses loved their profession, they had mixed feelings about their jobs. In fact, 55% of those surveyed worried that their job was affecting their health.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations should be asking, “What can we do?” “How can we take care of our employees?”

While there are nuanced individual factors that can cause burnout, including poor managers or personal issues, the most common work-related causes of staff burnout can actually be detected through analytics and mitigated through sound staffing practices.

For example, by planning a staffing mix of cross-generational employees in line with patient demand, organizations can experience a healthy blend of experience and tenure and enable more mentoring of new grads from seasoned professionals on every shift. Ensuring experienced caregivers are always part of the mix has a positive effect on patient engagement and satisfaction.

But it isn’t all on employers to alleviate employee burnout. While self-care and a work/life balance are really important, they are two concepts that people can become too fixated on, further perpetuating their stress. People should be intentional about the type of self-care they are choosing, meaning instead of getting a manicure and pedicure, it can be very beneficial to simply turn off your phone for regular periods of time and employ simple breathing strategies to help alleviate stress and anxiety.

There are some who don’t believe in the “work/life balance” concept and see the whole thing as just life, and everything is connected. This is fine, as long as you are taking time for yourself and not burning the candle at both ends. Think of it like this, for a top athlete, the recovery they do after a workout is as important as the workout. While you might not be a professional athlete, your daily routine is working your body and mind, so you should be devoting time to recovery and wellness. For some, however, clear boundaries between personal life and work are required. Doing so allows someone a better chance to succeed in both.

Alleviating burnout takes teamwork. A staff member should identify what is causing them stress and work with their employer to find a solution. For an organization, this means focusing on what policies and practices they may need to alter to ensure they are setting their employees up for success. Leveraging analytics can help an organization be vigilant of the indicators of stressful work conditions. Best practices can be implemented to further minimize staff dissatisfiers and offer desirable workplace benefits.

Jackie Larson

Jackie Larson
Jackie Larson is president of Avantas, a provider of workforce management technology, services, and strategies for the healthcare industry.

Jackie Larson

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