With the increase in number of skilled nursing facilities, a scarcity of nursing workforce has been observed to meet their growing demand. This has resulted in high workload which has imposed a burdening stress on the nursing staff leading to physical and mental exhaustion.
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According to the National Nursing Engagement Report survey of around 1950 nurses, held in 2019, 15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout. In another research on work-related burnout among nurses, mentions organizational stressors in the work environment as the key factors of weariness and subsequent turnover among nurses. Being drained also greatly affects their role in patient care resulting in less patient satisfaction. Thus addressing key factors and their solution is vital to provision of premium quality patient care in skilled nursing facilities.
The prime causative factors that make post-acute nursing staff mentally drained are higher workloads resulting from patients’ shorter hospital stays, increasing illnesses per patient, little supportive resources, and an overall lack of nursing professionals. Secondly, the operational problems created by the non-optimized work environment, frequent interruptions, competing demands, and inadequate resources also contribute to nurses’ burnout to some extent. Some of these problems may be identified by administrators and solved to some level, but more often they are simply overlooked.
The following five proven strategies are effective in this regard that administrators can adopt to reduce the burnout ratio in nursing staff.
1- Strong and Empathetic Leadership
An empathetic leadership is a first and foremost factor in preventing nurses’ burnout in a skilled nursing care facility. Leaders need to be proactive and communicative to be aware of the challenges their staff is facing. Only then they can take an effective remedial action. Sometimes a communication gap causes hurdles that needs to be eliminated for creating a good team. Thus, it is important to have a regular meeting with the employees to know their experiences and work stressors.
A strong headed leader encourages open communication, erases the negative stigma that accompanies burnout, and fosters healthy workspace relationships. This enables them to solve such problems before they take their toll on the mental health of the working staff. Administrative support, when combined with a good working environment, goes a long way in offering encouragement and a sense of worthiness in the employees.
Administrator should also ensure good relations between nurses and other staff such as primary care physicians, or orthopedic surgeons since it is vital to effectively meet the medical needs of residents. Research studies about nurses’ burnout have reported that such healthy and frequent communication between nursing and medical staff has resulted in twice likely patient satisfaction rates, and significantly lower burnout in nurses.
2- Ongoing training sessions for skill enhancement
For premium patient care services, education and training courses are essential to create the nursing workforce that is well-equipped with the knowledge and skills needed in SNF.
SNF administrators should focus on empowering their staff with latest knowledge about chronic diseases, maintaining an efficient hygienic environment and care quality improvement. These measures can save the trouble of an infection spread or progress of an existing disease in residents thus saving time and extra workload of the nursing staff.
Furthermore, the nursing staff should be well-trained for solving day-to-day problems they encounter while providing caring services to their residents. Likewise, they should be educated with better ways to enhance their decision making capacity. Exercises can be practiced in this regard in the form of group sessions. Activities can be arranged from time to time to focus on enhancing their cognitive ability. Not only will it improve their performance but also mitigate the effects of work related stress in them.
3- Automation wherever possible
Studies regarding identification of performance factors, have shown that simple technological solutions in the workspace can greatly enhance work performance of the staff.
Such organizational interventions can change the nature of work and how workers adapt following that change. Some nurses, however, feel it an extra burden to adapt to the new technology but with proper training they can be made compatible to adopt innovative ways.
Since the hospital discharge process has been transitioning to online media, it is greatly
helpful to add video virtual tours for the post-acute services. Where on one hand it will facilitate the patients in making best choice for themselves, on the other hand it will save time of the nursing staff in answering questions asked by patients or their caregivers. The use of virtual tours also increases patient confidence and adds to the marketability of the SNF organizations.
The SNF website should be compelling and easy to use. Adding a detailed FAQ section where all the common questions are answered, can prevent the nurses from getting overwhelmed with the load of queries that originate from the lack of communication between families and nursing homes. When all the relevant information can be found online, it will ease the admission process in SNF without much involvement of nursing staff.
4- Improved communication facilities for residents
Much burden of the nursing staff can be lessened when residents are allowed to communicate with their family members frequently. That fact that elders are more likely to feel lonesome and despondent, needs no explanation. And for that matter, affection and attention from their loved ones can be sought through multiple communication media such as skype or zoom calls. The chosen media should be easy to use and be of good quality to ensure smooth communication. Multiple members of family can be contacted to communicate with their elders residing in SNF, on alternate days. Likewise, friends and extended family members can also be considered for regular virtual interactions. Regular family feedback and virtual meeting will have an empowering effect on their wellbeing and provide the nursing staff some time for their self-care, on regular basis.
5- Supportive measures to overcome weariness
Once the key stressors are identified for the employees, measures should be taken for their well-being. Some simple remedial acts are; lucrative benefits, fancy meal programs, counseling groups, outdoor activities, team building projects, extra time off, and other measures of similar kind. Steps should be taken to encourage their growth and opportunities to deal with distress effectively.
Mental resilience is a strong variable to combat stress and exhaustion in nursing staff and can be enhanced through training programs and cognitive sessions. Administrators should invest in the mental well-being programs for their staff, the lack of which can result in patient neglect and poor quality caring services. This can negatively impact the overall image of an organization. However, it can be easily prevented with establishing measures such as stress management trainings, counselling sessions and self-development courses for the staff. These programs will enable the nurses to self identify their symptoms of burnout and seek help for their timely solution.
Burnout in nursing staff, is a major problem that is causing turbulence in the SNF community. Timely measures can help reduce some of its consequential issues such as high turnover rates and nurse shortages. It starts with getting the right information about major issues of the caregivers and nursing staff. Administrators holding an empathetic and supportive approach can better understand such threats to the well-being of their employees and can take the right actions towards correcting those issue. It takes time to create a through plan to get rid of work stress for employees but putting one in place now can avert major staffing and organizational problems in the future. Additionally, digitalizing the process of hospital discharge and admission in SNF using expert services, can largely reduce the workload of nursing staff leading to better care.