What is Nurse Burnout and How Does it Impact Patient Satisfaction?

In a 2017 survey of nurses, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were suffering from some level of burnout. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and left nurses and other healthcare workers struggling to treat infected patients while worrying if they are exposing their families to the deadly virus. A recent survey of 15,000 nurses revealed that eight of 10 respondent were concerned about infecting family and friends during the pandemic and six of ten were worried about becoming infected themselves. Nearly one of every three felt they were suffering from burnout.

What is nurse burnout and what are its causes?

Last year, the World Health Organizations (WHO) officially recognized workplace burnout in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). WHO defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

WHO outlined the characteristics of burnout as:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Several reasons lead to these characteristics being present in the nursing community:

  • Constantly working in busy, high stress environments
  • Growing workloads as nurse to patient ratios increase
  • More responsibilities being assigned to nurses
  • Long shifts, often up to 12 hours

Nurse burnout and patient satisfaction

A study published in Med Care concluded that patients who were cared for in units described by nurses as having adequate staff, administrative support for nursing care, good relations between doctors and nurses—and as a result low burnout—were more than twice as likely as other patients to report high satisfaction with their care.

Another study showed that the percentage of patients who would definitely recommend a hospital to friends and family decreased by nearly two percent for every 10 percent of nurses at the hospital reporting high burnout. A study of nurses in cardiac units and dialysis wards showed an even bigger correlation between burnout and patient satisfaction. The results showed that 85.8% of nurses in intensive care units had high level of burnout and only 34.8% of patients were satisfied with the provided nursing care. The study concluded there was a significant inverse relationship between burnout and patient satisfaction.

How to improve patient satisfaction

There are a number ways healthcare organizations are working to improve the working environment for nurses to minimize burnout, and as a result, improve patient satisfaction.

 Spot signs of nurse stress

This is tough to do because nurses work hard to hide the level of stress they may be under. However, loss of enthusiasm for the job, reduced social contact with other nurses, and attendance issues all can point to burnout potential.

Improve Nurse-to-patient ratios

High nurse-to-patient ratios can be directly related to burnout rates. Research in the Journal of American Medical Association found nurses in hospitals with 8 to 1 patient-to-nurse ratios are more than twice as likely to show high levels of burnout as nurses in hospitals with 4 to 1 ratios.

Reduce Non-Clinical Tasks

Many studies have shown that nurses spend an inordinate amount of time on non-clinical tasks like post-discharge follow-up and monitoring, preventive visit scheduling, and connecting patients with community resources. These tasks can quickly overburden nurses and lead to burnout.

How Envera Health helps with nurse burnout and patient satisfaction

The ongoing commercialization of healthcare has placed patients in a position of power when it comes to their healthcare. That should put improving patient satisfaction at the top of the list of goals for any healthcare organization. As the evidence clearly shows, ensuring that patients are satisfied often begins with avoiding burnout within the nursing staff.

One of the key ways that Envera  can help accomplish that goal is our Transitions of Care Solution. These custom designed, post-discharge follow-up services complement your clinical expertise with a holistic approach to transitions of care. Many health systems are currently leveraging their already limited care management resources to contact patients after discharge to avoid preventable readmissions and reduce their risk of penalties.

Our Transitions of Care Solution relieves the burden of non-clinical tasks from your nursing staff to free them up to care for patients and eliminates the stress of overwork that can lead to burnout. We become part of your overall population health program using light, efficient multi-channel touches, to proactively reach more patients after discharge from acute care or ambulatory settings. Through a brief assessment, we review the patient’s experience and transitions of care needs. Based on their responses, some calls are escalated to our clinical team to review discharge instructions and coordinate follow-up care to support the recovery process.

The Transitions of Care Solution also minimizes readmissions and revisits, which can lead to less patient overcrowding. This can reduce the nurse to patient ratio which has proven to lead to higher patient satisfaction levels. When Bon Secours Mercy Health implemented our Transitions of Care Solution, they experienced a 13.1 percent decline in emergency department revisit rate and a 17.8% decline in inpatient discharge revisit rate.

Nurses are an integral component of the healthcare system so effort must be taken to keep them focused and healthy, enabling them to provide high levels of care for patients. Freeing them up from non-clinical tasks and reducing their workload can be important ways to help them avoid burnout. The end result? More efficient nurses and more satisfied patients.

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