Survey Shows Nurses Face Significant Burnout Risks in COVID-19 Pandemic

During the time of the survey, 44% of health care workers surveyed had “at risk” well-being, which is closely associated with increased risk of burnout, fatigue, and patient care errors.

More than 40% of nurses and other health care professionals had risks associated with an increased likelihood of burnout early in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey published in the American Journal of Nursing.

The study investigates risk factors for poor well-being and factors associated with greater resilience, which may reduce the risk of burnout for hands-on care providers, according to research from Lindsay Thompson Munn, RN, PhD, and her colleagues of a North Carolina health care system.

"The insights gained from this study can help health care leaders to target these risk factors and develop strategies that allow organizations to better support well-being and resilience among clinicians," the study authors said in a press release.

The online survey of nurses and other non-physician health care workers received 2459 responses from participants who provided direct patient care and focused on risk factors for decreased well-being, which was a key contributor to the burnout epidemic among health care professionals. Data were collected in June and July 2020.

During the time of the survey, 44% of health care workers surveyed had “at risk” well-being, which is closely associated with increased risk of burnout, fatigue, and patient care errors.

The analysis of the responses identified several factors linked to increased odds of poor well-being, such as:

  • Low scores on a measure of resilience
  • Feeling supplies of personal protective equipment were insufficient
  • Believing the organization did not understand health care workers’ emotional support needs during COVID-19
  • Increased workload
  • Inadequate staffing for safe patient care
  • Having a lower degree of psychological safety

There were opposite levels of some of these factors associated with higher scores for resilience, including:

  1. Feeling the organization does not understand emotional support needs
  2. Believing staff were being redeployed to areas of critical need
  3. Having a higher degree of psychological safety

Further, fewer than one-fourth of health care workers surveyed had used available resources to support their well-being and resilience, such as meditation apps and counseling. Munn and her co-authors believe that this study had practical implications for health care professionals to promote well-being and resilience among other workers during the pandemic and beyond.

"While it may seem obvious that nurses and other [health care workers] would sustain burnout and poor well-being after dealing with providing care under arduous circumstances, it's important to establish the contributing factors and to learn how some were able to mitigate the effects of the stressors," said Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN, in the press release. "We're in serious need of successful strategies to support frontline caregivers."

Munn noted some of the next steps that will help support resilience while addressing the factors that are negatively attached to burnout in the environment.

"[L]eaders can take crucial steps toward optimizing workers' well-being by paying careful attention to workload and staffing, creating a culture of psychological safety within teams and units, and recognizing and actively addressing the unique challenges posed by the pandemic," Munn said in the press release.

REFERENCE

During COVID-19, nurses face significant burnout risks, reports American Journal of Nursing. EurekAlert! July 22, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-07/wkh-dcn072221.php.

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