Some days you just need a break. Even when you absolutely love your job, stress, deadlines, meetings, and more can add strain to your daily work life and even carry over into your personal life. Some may use a vacation day or call in sick, but what you’re really taking is a mental health day off. Benefits Pro tells us that according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40% of employees experience a consistent level of stress or excessive anxiety. The Mind the Workplace report also found that 81% of employees with stress are also dealing with work-family issues and a 63% increase in mental health and behavioral problems. Mental health is not something to be ignored.
Why Nurses Deserve Mental Health Days
While everybody is entitled to a mental health day, those working in the healthcare field, particularly nurses, are faced with extra responsibilities that could be the difference between life and death. Those working in medicine need to be energetic, patient, dedicated, and have specific knowledge and skills to help strangers who cannot help themselves.
According to Nurse Advisor, nurses experience twice the rate of clinical depression than the general public. “Nurses have to constantly deal with precarious work conditions such as being understaffed, withstanding verbal and physical harassment by patients and doctors, and working long, 16-hour shifts, sometimes back-to-back. All of these conditions can weigh heavily on someone’s psyche and can place nurses under a state of permanent duress.” Nurses should be allowed to request mental health days to make sure they don’t experience nursing burnout. The stresses of nursing can cause nurses to burnout, which means they are emotionally exhausted with a sense of reduced accomplishment and sometimes a loss of identity.
How to Spot & Avoid Nursing Burnout
It’s important that supervisors are on the lookout for burnout symptoms among their nursing staff. According to Rasmussen College, “Burnout not only affects nurses, but also cascades onto the patients they care for. Studies show the link between nursing burnout and an increased likelihood of infections in patients. And hospitals with high burnout rates tend to have lower patient satisfaction overall. Nursing burnout isn’t something only healthcare professionals should worry about—it’s something that affects anyone ever receiving care in a hospital.”
There are many reasons nurses and healthcare professionals can experience burnout, which is why mental health days can be a great distraction and way to manage stress levels. So, why do nurses burnout?
- Understaffing & Long Shifts
Being short-staffed is a large contributor to nursing burnout. There’s a huge growth in nursing employment opportunities, but with that there is a gap of nursing professionals available. Numerous reports tell us this shortage is expected to reach epidemic proportions in the coming years, which could also lead to burnout. Nurses also have incredibly long shifts in comparison to the regular 9-5 workdays. Many work long 12-hour shifts or are called in when staffing is short. Rasmussen College states, “Working longer hours can result in greater fatigue and an increased chance of error in nursing. Long, tiring shifts contribute to burnout in nursing throughout a career.”
- High-Stress Environment
Over the last 15 years, nursing responsibilities have increased due to advancements in technology and documentation. This adds more work and stress to an already busy work day. Many nurses can feel overwhelmed, especially if they are understaffed. This fast-paced workload, increased responsibilities, and short-staffing can all lead nurses to be stressed.
- Workplace Violence
There are staggering numbers behind workplace violence in the healthcare industry. All types of nurses have been victims of violent incidents that can occur inside a patient’s hospital room, emergency departments, geriatric and psychiatric environments. 96% of male nurses and 85% of female nurses have been physically threatened by their own patients. The stress behind potentially becoming a victim of violence on the job can certainly lead to an increase in anxiety and tension, and ultimately, nursing burnout.
- Coping with Sickness & Death
Nurses are exposed to sick and dying patients daily. This can cause extreme emotional baggage and grief that builds over time, which sometimes can creep into a nurse’s personal life. Rasmussen College tells us, “When getting attached to patients proves all too easy, nurses may face consistent loss with little time to decompress or grieve. These emotions can wear nurses down over time and cause burnout when they aren’t dealt with in a healthy manner.”
There are signs to look out for when trying to spot nursing burnout. Below are some symptoms from AJC:
- They dread going into work almost everyday
- They show symptoms of chronic negativity
- Instead of supporting colleagues, they start to criticize them
- They start to express doubt in their own capabilities
- They no longer enjoy their favorite activities or socializing
- They're tired more often
- They lose their compassion toward patients
- Their fuse has become noticeably short
- They lose their ability to listen to patients
- They stop leaning on colleagues for support
Spotting the above symptoms is helpful, but there are ways to avoid nursing burnout altogether. Here are some examples:
- Allow Mental Health Days
Nurses need a break. Self-care for nurses is just as important as patient care. Nurses cannot do their job well if they’re not 100%. Allowing nurses time to unwind and take care of themselves and look after their own health with mental health days can have many benefits, especially when they come back to their high-stress job feeling refreshed!
- Address Staffing Concerns
There are ways to tackle the time-consuming process of staffing. Consider an automated notification process with confirmations, quotas, and follow up messaging. This can help healthcare institutions handle the heightened level of staffing demand, especially in emergency incidents.
- Prevent Workplace Violence
The healthcare sector makes up just 9% of the U.S. workforce overall, yet it experiences as many violent workplace injuries as all other industries combined! A healthcare organization is responsible for their staff, including their nurses. Having a robust safety and security system in place is a great way to protect healthcare employees. Technologies such as emergency notification systems, panic buttons, and anonymous tip solutions are a surefire way to prevent incidents and communicate with staff in real-time, ensuring faster incident response.
Professionals in healthcare experience high levels of pressure due to the many stressors of understaffing, increased workloads, workplace violence, and coping with sickness and death. Mental health days are something every nursing professional should take as they’re beneficial in reducing some of the occupational hazards nurses face everyday.
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