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Preventing Burnout As a Nurse Manager

Nursing has never been an easy profession. The healthcare industry is committed to helping patients heal, but there will always be another patient who is struggling or in need of serious care. This truth has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the profession’s demands and the current pandemic, many nurses are experiencing exhaustion, fatigue and burnout — especially as coronavirus variants develop and present challenges anew. Nurse managers can play an integral role in helping to prevent burnout if they possess the tools and skills to ensure nurses in their charge are properly cared for.

What Is Nurse Burnout?

Burnout can occur in any profession. However, Forbes ranks the medical field as one of the top three sectors in which burnout is widespread. A person dealing with burnout usually experiences the following:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion. If you struggle to get through the day or feel like you’re dragging yourself to work, you may be suffering from burnout. This can stem from a physical place, an emotional one or both.
  • Behavioral and physiological manifestations. Have you been operating on a short fuse or snapping at co-workers? Perhaps you’ve been suffering from chronic headaches, stomachaches or a lack of sleep? Burnout may be to blame.
  • Lack of passion. Nurses often get into the field because they’re genuinely passionate about caring for their patients. That feeling typically disappears with burnout.
  • Personal dissatisfaction and/or lack of confidence. While no one appreciates a nurse with an “ego,” healthcare professionals must be careful to also not overextend themselves and lose confidence — especially because this can result in mistakes on the job.

5 Strategies to Address Nurse Burnout

Nurse managers act as leaders among their nursing staff. Many healthcare facilities require nurse managers to hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, and many choose one with a focus in Nursing Administration. With this education, nurse managers learn various skills to help instruct and guide those in their charge, as well as provide them with an efficient work environment.

Nurse managers need to be quick to recognize and address potential burnout among their staff. By providing staff with various coping tactics, nurse managers can halt burnout in its tracks. The following are just a few ways nurse managers can act as problem solvers in this regard:

  • Encourage self-care. Nurses notoriously have a “patient-first” mindset. But, as the adage goes, it’s critical for them to put the oxygen mask on themselves before helping others. Encouraging self-care practices like proper sleep and healthy eating — or even habits as simple as drinking enough water or taking a few minutes to just breathe — can go a long way.
  • Ask staff nurses to “take inventory” of their stressors. Acknowledgement is a significant first step toward resolving stressors that may be causing burnout. If nurses are feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to sit down and pinpoint specific causes of burnout. Then, nurse managers and nurses can work together to try to address them.
  • Create an open-door atmosphere. In order to prevent burnout, nurses must feel like they can be transparent with their managers or supervisors when personal or professional problems arise. Nurse managers need to foster an appropriate balance between self-accountability and communication when things become “too much.”
  • Champion a team approach. While leadership is key in mitigating burnout, sometimes nurses simply feel more comfortable confiding in their peers who can relate. Nurse managers who support a unified team can set their nurses up for success. Nurses will feel more empowered knowing they have the support of their fellow team members.
  • Provide resources for support. Nurse managers have a lot on their plate. So, they may not be able to undertake nurse burnout completely on their own. By accumulating a number of internal or external resources (support groups, workshops, assessment tools, guidebooks and the like), nurse managers offer valuable outlets for nurses to turn to.

Leadership Makes All the Difference

Stress in the workplace will always be a factor to consider. So, it’s crucial for nurse managers and their teams to find ways to temper its effects. As a nurse manager, you can exhibit true leadership by intervening before burnout gets to a point of no return.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington’s MSN Nursing Administration online program.

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