Nurses face increased likelihood of burnout during COVID-19, study finds
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40 percent of nurses and other healthcare workers were at risks associated with an increased likelihood of burnout, reports a poll study in the August issue of the American Journal of Nursing (AJN). The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.
The study identifies risk factors for poor well-being as well as factors associated with greater resilience – which may reduce the risk of burnout for caregivers, according to new research from Lindsay Thompson Munn, IA , PhD, and colleagues from a North Carolina healthcare system. They write: âThe insights gained from this study can help health officials target these risk factors and develop strategies that enable organizations to better support the well-being and resilience of clinicians. “
New evidence on the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of healthcare workers
Researchers conducted an online survey of nurses and other non-physician health workers (HCWs) and received responses from 2,459 participants who provided direct patient care. The survey focused on risk factors for decreased well-being: a key contributor to the burnout epidemic among healthcare professionals.
The survey also assessed aspects of resilience. Defined as the ability to face and adapt positively to adversity, resilience is an important factor in well-being. Data was collected in June and July 2020, providing insight into the well-being and resilience of healthcare workers months after the start of the pandemic.
At that time, 44% of healthcare workers surveyed had âat-riskâ well-being, which is associated with an increased risk of burnout, fatigue, and patient care errors. Analysis of responses identified several factors associated with an increased likelihood of poor well-being, including:
- Have low scores on a measure of resilience
- Believing that the supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were insufficient
- Feeling that the organization did not understand the emotional support needs of healthcare workers during the pandemic
- Believe that the workload has increased
- Believing that there were insufficient staff to treat patients safely
- Have less psychological security (feeling that the work environment was conducive to vulnerability and interpersonal risk-taking)
In contrast, opposing levels of some of the same factors were associated with higher scores for resilience:
- Feel that the organization do understand emotional support needs
- Believing that staff were being redeployed to areas where needs were critical
- Have a higher psychological security
Less than a quarter of healthcare workers had used available resources to support their well-being and resilience (such as meditation apps, employee assistance programs, and counseling). Perhaps reflecting the high stress levels at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who used such resources were more likely to have âat-riskâ well-being.
Dr Munn and his co-authors believe their study has practical implications for healthcare leaders to promote wellness and resilience among healthcare workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
While it may seem obvious that nurses and other healthcare workers would experience burnout and poor well-being after providing care under difficult circumstances, it is important to establish the contributing factors and learn how. some may have alleviated the effects of stressors. We seriously need effective strategies to support frontline caregivers. “
Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief of AJN
Researchers discuss steps that can help support resilience while addressing modifiable factors that negatively affect well-being in the healthcare work environment. “[L]Leaders can take critical steps to optimize worker well-being by paying close attention to workload and staff, creating a culture of psychological safety within teams and units, and recognizing and responding to actively address the unique challenges posed by the pandemic, âDr Munn and my colleagues conclude.
Munn, LT, et al. (2021) Original research: Well-being and resilience among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional study. AJN, American Journal of Nursing. doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000767352.47699.0c.