By Laura Friend, Clinical Nurse Manager at Medical Solutions
I had just turned 23 years old when I graduated nursing school and was offered my dream job in the emergency department where I’d worked as a tech during the few years prior. I was working overnights, as most new grads do. It was my third week off orientation, around 3:30 a.m., when the EMS radio started to crackle: “Medic 46 is in route to your facility with a 16-year-old female, unrestrained driver. Rollover accident. Code 99 at this time. ETA 6 minutes.”
As some of you know, “code 99” means the paramedics are doing CPR in the ambulance on their way to the hospital. I remember thinking, “This isn’t going to be good. I’ve never seen a code 99 from the field make it. Sixteen years old, that’s not that much younger than me. I wonder why she was out so late; she should’ve been at home, safe.” Right then, the sirens started blaring right outside our door. The paramedics wheeled the young patient in, chest compressions in progress. The code lasted less than five minutes in the ER. Cause of death: blunt force trauma to the head. Half of her face was gone.
I couldn’t sleep that day when I went home. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw what was left of her face — the only part of her body that even had a scratch on it. I heard her mother’s cries as I tossed and turned. I could still smell the metallic odor of blood, even though I’d already showered and washed my scrubs. I went to work that night on little sleep and saw that my coworkers from the night before hadn’t slept much either. None of us talked about it. We quietly went about our jobs and went home again. I made it about five years total in the ER before I left the specialty I loved and worked hard to be a part of because I realized I had grown hard, cynical, and jaded.
Nurse burnout is a hot topic in the healthcare field. According to a recent survey, almost 57 percent of nurses report feelings of burnout or feeling unengaged. Feelings associated with burnout include constant fatigue, a lack of enthusiasm about one’s job, compassion fatigue, or feeling unappreciated or unmotivated. Of the 57 percent of nurses who report having those feelings, 50 percent have no plans to leave their organization (Brusie, 2019). I wasn’t alone. Knowing that over half of all nurses feel some sort of burnout regarding their jobs, what can we do?
Research shows there are a few key items that would help nurse morale and engagement. These include giving nurses an opportunity to participate in decision-making that is directly related to their work, as well as giving nurses more autonomy when it comes to their skillset and expertise. It is also recommended to not only make employees feel like their hard work is meaningful, but to also give them goals in which to strive and recognize their accomplishments (Mudallal, Othman, & Hassan, 2017).
While those steps may take time, simpler and quicker ways to help decrease the effects of nurse burnout include talking about “the hard stuff” with coworkers, debriefing after events, and helping coworkers to take breaks at work. Individually, nurses must also take care of themselves, so they are able to best care for others; get enough sleep, exercise, and participate in enjoyable activities outside of work. Travel nursing also helps prevent burnout by securing better nurse to patient ratios at facilities in need. For those who choose to travel, the variety of travel nursing assignments available can also help them prevent their own burnout with frequent changes in scenery.
To our Medical Solutions nurses, we appreciate you! Thank you for all your hard work, day and night, to take such great care of your patients. Please remember to take care of yourselves as well as you care for your patients — and that our internal clinical team is always here to support you!
Brusie, C. (2019, April 7). Study Reveals Alarming Statistics on Nurse Burnout.
Mudallal, R. H., Othman, W. A. M., & Hassan, N. F. A. (2017). Nurses’ Burnout: The Influence of Leader Empowering Behaviors, Work Conditions, and Demographic Traits. INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing, 54. doi: 10.1177/0046958017724944