3 Key Principles to Prevent Nurse Burnout
To complement our focus on nursing resilience, LiveProcess recently hosted a webinar presented by the Advisory Board: “How to Build Resilience and Reduce Nurse Burnout.” The webinar addresses the four primary cracks in the foundation for a resilient workforce:
As a best-practice research firm, the Advisory Board listens to nurses to find root causes for burnout, so as to identify meaningful solutions to resilience challenges. The webinar provides new and useful information about strategies and resources to help nurses and other frontline staff.
I observed three key principles at work in successful solutions for addressing nurse burnout in a way that allows nurses to continue providing high-quality patient care:
1. Work with the solvable challenges
We can’t change other people’s behavior, but we can give nurses and other frontline staff tools that empower them to handle difficult situations with less stress. For example, while hospitals can add metal detectors and hire more security, those resources can’t always prevent the threat of violence at the point of care. However, nurses can be equipped with tools for responding to these threats, such as de-escalation training, panic buttons on personal communication devices, and access to specialized response teams for suspected behavioral health crises.
Of course, tools only work when you use them. While nurses will act swiftly to protect a patient in danger, they may not take time to protect their own well-being. Nurses experience many emotionally challenging events in the course of their careers, such as the sudden death of a patient, but the demands of care delivery often prevent taking time to process those events. Perhaps as a result, the rate of depression for nurses is double that of other U.S. workers. One in five nurses across several nursing domains displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
One other eye-opening statistic: nationwide, the average utilization rate of employee assistance programs is 3 to 5 percent. The Advisory Board recommends adapting to nurses’ reluctance to use available services by making the services opt-out rather than opt-in, so nurses don’t even have to ask for emotional support.
The opt-out only principle can be applied to many of the challenges nurses face: give nurses good communication tools, choose tools that are easy to learn and easy to use, and make using those tools a standard part of the job, so nurses know to use them even in a crisis.
2. Use structured communication to enhance collaboration
One of the strategies featured in the Advisory Board presentation is a communication process to prompt more beneficial interactions between nurses and security personnel. In most healthcare facilities, security officers proactively patrol the hallways, perhaps focusing on entryways, stairwells and low-light areas. Given the large amount of territory they cover, it may be difficult to respond swiftly when a nurse perceives a threat.
Security-driven unit rounding is a best practice that guides security to visit specific units, check in with the nurse manager or other staff, and identify hot spots where aggression or other behaviors have been an issue. What really makes these conversations work is a rounding tool: a template with prompts for initiating check-ins and pre-determined fields for critical information, for example the room number, specific problems, accountable staff, and actions taken or planned.
The rounding tool provides structure for cross-disciplinary communication. Nurses are not likely to know all that security can and can’t do, and security is not always aware of what is happening in a given unit. The tool ensures that essential information and key details are provided, and it also makes passing on information at shift changes much more efficient.
The principle of structured communication can also be used to streamline collaboration in other areas, from incoming trauma patients in the ED to coordinating discharge. Working better together in these ways can also relieve the perception that staffing levels are driving compromises in care delivery.
[For more on the value of structured communication in hospitals and health systems, read Health System Improves Emergency Response and Day-to-Day Workflow with Structured Messaging.]
3. Don’t under estimate the value of a minute
Seconds count when caring for patients, but when it comes to nursing resilience, it’s easier to dismiss the importance of taking a minute for personal well-being here or there. Fortunately, the Advisory Board found that the sense of isolation that contributes to nurse burnout can be alleviated with practices that take less than two minutes.
Many caregivers are experienced in helping patients tell their stories, but nurses have fewer opportunities to share about significant moments in their nursing career, whether that’s persevering through a high-stress critical incident or celebrating a patient’s recovery. Structured opportunities for 90-second stories in unit huddles, staff meetings or other gathering times help nurses connect around their common mission and values.
The principle of giving time back to nurses through more efficient workflows, whether a minute at a time or in larger blocks, can make more room for addressing the root causes of nurse burnout.
Healthcare team communication technology enables solutions to nurse burnout
Healthcare team communication technology like LiveProcess Communicator can create shared situational awareness, streamline communications, and accelerate responses to optimize logistics and reduce time spent tracking down supplies, physicians and other patient-care needs.
The beauty of these three principles is how they underscore that building resilience and reducing nurse burnout are achievable goals. No major overhauls are needed: enhancements to the services, resources and processes already in place can pay big dividends.
Watch the webinar, How to Build Resilience and Reduce Nurse Burnout to learn more best-practice strategies for a more resilient healthcare workforce.
Read more about how healthcare team communication tools can reduce nurse burnout in this blog post.
Visit our Clinical Communication and Collaboration Resource Center for more blog posts and case studies.
All statistics are taken from The Advisory Board, Nursing Executive Center, “Rebuild the Foundation for a Resilient Workforce,” 2018.