June 16, 2010 | | Comments 1
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Seven strategies to prevent nurse burnout

In a recent post, I discussed the issue of nurses being double at risk for a heart attack. This statistic comes from a study conducted by Danish researchers (the full study can be found here) and was conducted over a 15-year period. In addition to this finding, a British study tracked 6,000 workers for 11 years and found those regularly working more than 10 hours per day had a 60% higher risk for heart disease than those who only worked seven hours daily.

A recent column on HealthLeaders Media discussed seven strategies to reduce nurse burnout that I want to share here.

The strategies come from a study conducted by Milliken, Clements, and Tillman in a 2007 study called Nursing Economic$ (free login required). The study says to prevent burnout, organizations need to employ a nurse-centered stress management program AND an executive support system. Too often, stress reduction programs fail because they aren’t relevant for bedside nurses or because bedside nurses do not receive support for such programs from leadership.

The following strategies were found by this study and others to be effective:

1. Stress reduction classes: Offer live classes and computer-based sessions about self-care stress reduction techniques. Be sure to tailor the sessions so they make sense for busy staff nurses. For example, a session filled only with strategies that aren’t applicable to the nurse environment won’t be as helpful as one that includes easy-to-implement techniques such as deep breathing that can be performed during a quick meal break. Encourage nurses to participate by raffling off gift certificates for massages.

2. Create a space for relaxation: Social support has been shown to reduce the effects of stress, and senior leadership can help foster opportunities for nurses to interact by providing a place for them to meet. The break room can be more than a place to scarf a quick sandwich and managers should encourage staff to take breaks together when possible to build a sense of community.

3. Mentor and buddy programs: Having someone to vent to and engage in joint problem-solving can mitigate the effects of stress. Encouraging mentor and buddy programs also boosts nurse engagement and helps in long-term retention and professional development.

4. Recognition and reward: Although often considered a short-term boost, simple recognition and reward activities lift nurses’ spirits and go a long way toward making a bad day into a good one.

5. Manager involvement: Building a supportive and healthy work environment reduces the stress nurses feel. Managers can provide positive feedback and support through stressful situations. They can use opportunities such as unit staff meetings to solve problems and share stress reduction techniques.

6. Training and education: Offer continuing education and frequent training because nurses who feel competent in their jobs are less anxious. Support and praise nurses who attend non-mandatory educational events, achieve specialty certification, and participate in other forms of professional development.

7. Counseling: Employee assistance programs (EAP) can provide assistance specifically to prevent nurse burnout. Request your EAP start offering group classes and promote these heavily to encourage nurses to attend.


What are ways your facility helps prevent nurse burnout? Are any of the seven suggested strategies offered at your organization?

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Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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  1. Hi,
    My hospital has tried several of the strategies listed. The mentoring programs seem to help with the new graduates/new hires. We try to celebrate the successes and at times it does seem to help. In the current economy I wonder about how the stresses of personal lives are brought into the workplace.

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