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Clinician burnout is a serious healthcare concern. According to a recent poll, over half of physicians and one-third of nurses have experienced burnout in the United States (US). The burnout epidemic is harmful to patient care, and it might only worsen the already problematic staffing shortage facing the long term care industry.

Broadly speaking, burnout can be described as a sense of weariness, cynicism, and perceived inefficiency that develops from long-term job stress. However, clinician burnout is a more intense form of professional exhaustion, including emotional and physical symptoms. Nurses who experience burnout feel emotionally stretched and fatigued. They frequently exhibit greater detachment at work and report feeling powerless and unfulfilled.

There is a range of symptoms associated with clinician burnout that nursing home administrators should look for. Examples of physical symptoms include:

A physician leaning on a wall, due to anxiety which is a symptom of clinical burnout
Physical symptoms of clinical burnout include sleeping problems, frequent illnesses, and anxiety.
  • Sleeping problems
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Anxiety
  • General body pains
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite

As for the emotional symptoms, they include:

  • General negativity
  • A sense of helplessness from the nurse
  • Self-doubt
  • Stress
  • Dissatisfaction with life, their career, and others

Finally, the behavioral symptoms that indicate clinician burnout are:

  • Increased unexplained absence from work
  • A tendency for the nurse to withdraw and isolate themselves from their colleagues
  • Poor decision-making capabilities
  • Sudden or unexpected substance abuse.

Preventing Burnout in Nursing

Preventing burnout in nursing homes should be a priority for nursing home administrators. This is because nurses experiencing burnout are at a greater risk of making errors or missing important health information about patients. Additionally, clinician burnout can result in:

Nurse leaving the workplace due to clinician burnout.
Burnout can result in a high turnover rate for nursing homes, which is costly and disruptive to the quality of care.
  • Nursing turnovers: High nursing turnovers are a particular concern in nursing homes. This is because nursing homes—which are currently facing a staffing crisis—rely heavily on nurses to provide quality care for residents. Nurses who experience burnout are more likely to leave their current position. This can result in a high turnover rate for nursing homes, which is costly and disruptive to the quality of care.
  • Lower staff performance: When nurses experience burnout, it can negatively impact staff performance. Clinician burnout can lead to nursing home staff harboring negative feelings about their job and contribute to poor working habits. This results in a decrease in the quality of care to residents leading to an increased risk of errors, increased hospitalizations, and mortalities. The result is decreased productivity or efficiency, which negatively impacts resident care and increases costs and penalties on account of regulations not being met.
  • Less emotional support for residents: When nurses are burnt out, they can become short-tempered and detached from their patients. Burnout manifests itself in the form of stress, resulting in nurses being unable to provide emotional support for residents, as they themselves require emotional support. This, too, results in a decreased quality of life for nursing home residents, who depend on their nurses to not only provide adequate care but closely document everything in nursing home software to prevent errors.
  • Reduced organizational commitment: Staff organizational commitment is high on the list of priorities for nursing homes, impacting the quality of care and staff retention. Clinician burnout negatively affects organizational commitment, as burnt-out nurses do not feel appreciated by the long term care organization nor motivated to achieve the mission and vision of the organization, harming the chemistry among staff members and the implementation of leadership’s goals. 

Given these negative consequences of clinician burnout, administrators need to prioritize preventing burnout in nursing homes. They can do so by observing the suggestions below. 

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7 Tips on How To Prevent Burnout in Nursing Homes

To understand how to prevent burnout in nursing, administrators and other long term care leaders must understand the causes of clinician burnout before they proceed in taking action against clinician burnout. Some of the most common reported causes of burnout include: 

  • a loss of autonomy
  • a focus on treating data rather than the patient/resident
  • asymmetric rewards
  • a sense of powerlessness
  • long term care EHR issues

Administrators are well aware of the fact that preventing burnout in nursing is essential to ensuring nursing home residents get the best care that a nursing home can provide. However, they may not always recognize nurse burnout symptoms sufficiently in order to anticipate problems before they arise. When asking themselves how to prevent burnout in nursing, leaders should consider the following tips:

Nurses provide support for a team member facing clinical burnout.
To help address clinical burnout, nursing homes can implement nurse support programs.
  1. Implement EHR training: long term care EHR systems can be highly complex and challenging to navigate, especially for nurses who are already experiencing high levels of stress. Therefore, nursing homes must offer training on their EHR system or look for a software vendor that offers EHR training to help nursing staff become more confident in using their LTC software.
  2. Improve nurse-to-resident ratios: One of the best ways to prevent nurse burnout is by ensuring that there are enough nurses to care for residents. This can help ensure that nurses are not overworked and have the time they need to provide quality care. One should always check their state staffing ratio laws and do all they can to meet the set standards.
  3. Include nurses in facility policy discussions: Nursing home administrators should seek the input and opinions of nurses when it comes to facility policies, as their voices are often underrepresented. By including nurses in these discussions, nurses can voice any work grievances and have them addressed, which can help prevent clinician burnout.
  4. Implement nurse support programs: Many nurses feel isolated and stressed at work, which are clear symptoms of burnout. To help address this, nursing homes can implement nurse support programs. These programs can offer nurses a place to vent about their job stressors and seek advice from peers. Additionally, these programs can provide educational opportunities and certifications to help nurses feel more confident and empowered to grow in their careers.
  5. Involve nurses in shift scheduling: When nurses are involved in the shift scheduling process, they are more likely to be satisfied with their work schedule. This can help prevent burnout, as nurses will not feel overworked or undervalued.
  6. Reduce the non-clinical tasks performed by nurses: Many nurses feel bogged down by non-clinical tasks, such as post-discharge follow-ups, post-discharge monitoring, preventive visit scheduling, and connecting patients/residents with community resources. While these tasks are essential, they should not take away from the time that nurses have to provide direct patient care. To help reduce the amount of time spent on these tasks, nursing homes can consider hiring support staff.
  7. Train nurse leaders to recognize and address nurse burnout: Nurse leaders constantly interact with other nursing staff in a nursing home. Hence, nurse leaders should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of nurse burnout. Additionally, they should know how to address these issues when they arise. Doing so can prevent nurse burnout from occurring while ensuring that nurses can provide quality care.

The Importance of Addressing Clinician Burnout

As mentioned above, there are many different strategies that long term care facilities can implement to prevent clinician burnout and ensure that residents get the best care possible. These strategies may include improving nurse-to-resident ratios, training on EHR systems, and involving nurses in facility policy discussions. Additionally, it is essential for nursing home administrators to train nurse leaders to recognize and address nurse burnout. By following these steps and continuing to be attentive to the physical and emotional needs of staff, nursing homes can create a more positive work environment for nurses and help prevent clinician burnout.

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Elijah Oling Wanga