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Reducing Nurse Burnout is a Win-Win

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Burnout happens in any job industry, but for healthcare, a burned out nurse can spell bad news for patients. A staff RN of almost five years, Theresa Brown explains “It's not like being a waiter, where you have too many tables, which is stressful, but no one's going to die if they don't get their entree in time.” Understanding the causes of work-related burnout, ways to confront it, and what can be done externally for nurses are the beginnings of addressing this healthcare problem.

Proper nurse-to-patient ratios – As in any business, the staff must be proportional to the needs of the clients. The more customers that frequent a business, the more staff are required. There isn’t a law mandating this, as it should be considered common sense. However, when it comes to nursing, patient care and nurse burnout may benefit from mandated ideal nurse-to-patient ratios to keep nurses from burning out and keep patient care at its highest level.

Maintain safe level of working hours – Teresa explains again, "Mistakes are more likely once people have worked beyond a certain number of hours.” High patient loads accompanied with long shifts can multiply burnout to dangerous levels. When nurses are frustrated, exhausted, stressed, and worn out it reflects in their work as it would with any other employee. As Dr. Linda Aiken, co-author of the American Journal for Infection Control, explains "The more patients that nurses take care of, the more likely adverse outcomes become." An article from the Huffington post reports “Fewer RN hours spent per patient per day was also significantly linked to higher pneumonia rates in post-op patients.” Less time spent per patient can lead to missed treatments and diagnoses, which is likely to lead to that patient returning again for the same problems. This means new patients and former patients snowball onto the burden of nursing staff.

Understaffing doesn’t save a hospital money, it actually costs more - In a 2009 report, Dr. Steven Hunt said, "The financial cost of losing a single nurse has been calculated to equal about twice the nurse's annual salary." For every 1 percent increase of annual nurse turnover, hospitals lose $300,000. Dr. Aiken put the cost of replacing just one burned out nurse at $65,000, on average, on top of the salary from the previous nurse. Furthermore, the Huffington Post reports “AJIC's report estimates that, if nurse burnout rates were reduced to even 10 percent, Pennsylvanian hospitals could potentially save $41 million associated with catheter-associated urinary tract infections and surgical site infections.”

Addressing the problem – One major obstacle in addressing the nursing burnout rate is the country’s nursing shortage. Even when hospitals are prepared to hire more RNs and increase the nurse-to-patient ratio and reduce hours worked, there simply aren’t enough qualified nurses to fill the positions. Educated RNs are in high demand for many reasons and make up a fundamental core of healthcare facilities. Eager LPNs, LVNs, RTs, and Paramedics that are ready to take up the call and become RNs can’t attend nursing schools in a traditional manner. The ones that have the experience and patient understanding often have families and busy schedules that prevent attending classes in person. Rue Education understands this problem many healthcare professionals face and has helped nearly 100,000 adult learners earn credit toward their nursing degrees. Rue Education’s advanced learning systems prepare healthcare professionals to transition into RNs and support them every step along the way. If you’re ready to start becoming the RN you’ve always wanted to be, talk to Rue Education today.