Nursing assistants are a vital part of any successful healthcare facility. They are expected to handle physically demanding aspects of HCP work, while treating patients with the compassion and patience that is expected of any nurse. Unfortunately, none of us are indestructible. The physical, mental and emotional stress of nursing assistant work can add up, if you are not careful. As a result, many CNAs often find themselves burdened with fatigue, depression and (eventually) nurse burnout. Even the most dedicated healthcare workers with the best of intentions have their limits–passion alone can only carry you so far. What exactly makes CNA burnout such a hot button topic in particular? What can nursing assistants and facilities do to address this trend? All this and more will be explored in short order.
What is nurse burnout?
Burnout is a condition of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, as a result of overwork and prolonged stress. Human minds are closely interconnected to the body, and the well-being of one greatly affects the other. Burnout can directly lead to a number of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and substance misuse. Signs of nurse burnout include fatigue, depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia, and irritability. If left unchecked, burnout can render CNAs incapable of fulfilling their nursing duties. Worst case scenario, it can eventually lead you to an early grave.
What are nurse burnout causes?
Mental exhaustion can be an issue across multiple levels of healthcare. Clinical work by its nature is a very stressful and demanding profession that demands a lot out of its workers. Nursing assistants in particular have been affected harshly by burnout, in recent years. As we mentioned earlier, CNAs are expected to carry out a number of demanding tasks in the workplace. Within a single shift, they can find themselves moving patients from room to room, grooming them, feeding them, moving around medical supplies, answering hospital calls and more. Not only are they asked to do a lot, but they are paid far less than their contemporaries. For reference, the BLS reported that registered nurses earn around $77,600 annually, while nursing assistants only make $30,290. Put bluntly, nursing assistants feel overworked and underpaid for the value of their labor. As far back as 2018, it was reported that CNA burnout had a 26 to 50% prevalence.
The pandemic problem
That number has undoubtedly spiked following the pandemic. The chaos and tumult of the COVID-19 outbreak has only fed to this overwhelming sentiment. Hospitals across the nation were filled to capacity and understaffed for the situation, at the height of COVID-19. Every HCP was affected negatively by this and CNAs were no exception. Nursing assistants suddenly found themselves dealing with even more tasks and commonly working overtime hours, while dealing with the fears of getting infected by the Coronavirus. Burnout was already a problem before then, but the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the process dramatically. According to nurse burnout statistics, anxiety and depression spiked by as much as 40%, during the pandemic.
What can be done?
There are a number of effective nurse burnout prevention measures. For example, CNAs can take short periodic breaks in between shifts. Setting aside 10 minutes to catch your breath can make a surprising difference. Proper self care can also help. When you are well-rested and eating healthy, your body is better equipped to handle the stress and challenges of a regular shift. If your workload is especially high on a given day, do not be afraid to ask for help or assistance from your fellow workers. It can take the load off. These are just a couple relevant examples.
As time marches on, keeping nursing talent may get harder than it has ever been. The fallout of the pandemic has tested the systems in place, and pushed hospitals past their capacities. While caring for yourself is important, it is not a sufficient measure by itself. The best possible changes to prevent nursing burnout are on a systematic level. Ultimately, facilities should be the most responsible for addressing this ongoing issue. Before CNA burnout symptoms even appear, the proper measures, initiatives and interventions would go a long way in making nursing assistants feel valued and retaining key talent. While this is true, there are still a number of variables that are within the CNA’s control.