Nurse Burnout Statistics—and How to Avoid Becoming One

Check out these shocking stats on nurse burnout, as well as some steps you can take to prevent yourself from burning out.

Image - Nurse Burnout Statistics Image via Hillier

As these statistics will reveal, nurse burnout is much more common and far costlier to the nursing industry than you might think. Being aware of the risks and putting prevention strategies in place can help you avoid becoming a burnout statistic yourself.

What Is Nurse Burnout?

It’s important to note that “nurse burnout” is different from the stress nurses feel at work. Stress is usually felt when someone is overengaged, while burnout is the extreme emotional and physical effects caused by stress.

The term burnout was first used in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the emotional and physical stress experienced by those who worked in “helping” professions like nursing. Since then, the definition has expanded to include the overall physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion a person can feel, and is often characterized by complete disengagement and detachment from their jobs.

But just how pervasive is this problem? According to a 2017 survey by Kronos, Inc., 85 percent of nurses reported feeling fatigued by their work, and 63 percent said that they are currently experiencing burnout from their jobs. Here are a few more nurse burnout statistics this survey uncovered:

  • 98 percent of nurses find their work physically and mentally demanding.
  • 93 percent reported feeling mentally and/or physically tired at the end of the workday.
  • 90 percent of nurses said that they had considered leaving the hospital they worked at to find a different job with better work-life balance.
  • 56 percent of all respondents reported driving home drowsy after a shift; 12 percent actually pulled their vehicle off the road to get some rest.
  • 44 percent worry their patient care will suffer because they’re tired.
  • 37 percent of nurses said that they were worried about making a mistake at work; 11 percent admitted to making mistakes due to fatigue.
  • 28 percent admitted to calling in sick just so they could rest.

In 2017, the RN network conducted its own survey in which it polled approximately 600 nurses. As it turns out:

  • 50 percent of respondents said that they have considered leaving the nursing profession entirely.
  • 27 percent of those nurses explained that this was because they felt overworked.

What Causes Nurse Burnout?

A variety of factors can cause a nurse to burn out, but some play a more significant role than others. According to the nurses polled in the Kronos survey, the following are four key factors that can lead to nurse burnout:

  1. Overwhelming Workloads: 60 percent of respondents reported having way too many patients and tasks to manage at one time.
  2. No Breaks During Shifts: 42 percent reported feeling fatigued because they weren’t able to take lunch and dinner breaks during shifts; 41 percent reported not being able to take ANY breaks.
  3. Lack of Adequate Sleep: 25 percent reported not being able to get enough sleep between their shifts. Having irregular work hours can contribute to nurses’ lack of sleep because this can disrupt their regular sleep patterns.
  4. Excessively Long Shifts: 24 percent reported that 12-hour shifts (as opposed to eight-hour shifts) was another key factor that contributed to their feelings of fatigue and burnout. (A 2012 study from the National Institute of Nursing Research backed this up.)

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Other factors that can cause nurses to burn out include poor leadership or management, lack of upward mobility, bullying from colleagues and administrators, and the emotional baggage that comes with caring for very sick or dying patients.

The Cost of Losing Nurses

When nurses burn out and leave the profession, healthcare facilities pay a high price. Although it’s not possible to pinpoint the EXACT dollar figure for how much nurse burnout costs the healthcare industry on an annual basis, researchers have tried to give us close approximations. Take a look:

  • According to the National Academy of Medicine, RN turnover typically costs U.S. hospitals about 1.2 to 1.3 times their salary (due to replacement costs). Let’s put this into context: If an RN was making $70,000 a year and decided to leave her hospital, her departure alone would cost the institution between $84,000 and $91,000.
  • Healthcare Business Today notes that “the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN ranges from $38,900 to $59,700. This results in the average hospital losing $5.13 to $7.86 million annually.”
  • The National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare estimates that nurse burnout costs hospitals $9 billion a year, and the healthcare industry at-large about $14 billion a year.

Of course, the actual “costs” associated with nurse burnout extend beyond just financial losses. Specifically, researchers continue to discover significant relationships between nurse burnout and the frequency of nurse medical errors, the rates of healthcare-associated infections in patients, and even in the rates of patient deaths.

What Can You Do to Avoid Burnout?

You can’t properly care for others if you don’t address your own needs first. Performing self-care when you’re off-duty will put you in a better place to be the best nurse you can be once you get back on the floor.

Easier said than done, right? To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to prevent yourself from burning out, based on the results from the Kronos survey:

  • Be Okay With Putting Yourself First: To someone who’s committed their life to caring for others, this can sound almost counterintuitive. But if you want to provide your patients with high-quality care, you have to put your own health and well-being ahead of everything else. This doesn’t need to be complicated, either; it can be as simple as making sure you’re eating right, getting enough sleep, and even getting a little exercise in every day.

  • Talk to Your Manager: 25 percent of nurses said that they weren’t getting sufficient sleep between shifts, which ultimately led to them feeling burned out. One reason for this was that they were working irregular schedules, or being asked to pick up additional shifts. If this sounds like you, consider talking to your manager about creating a more consistent work cycle. Having a stable schedule will allow you to establish a regular sleep routine that works for your body and helps you recharge.

  • Take Breaks: 41 percent of survey respondents said that they felt burned out because they didn’t take any breaks. Sometimes, this happens because there’s just too much to do and not enough staff to do it. (In those instances, it’s your manager’s responsibility to find ways to give everyone a break.) Be sure to take time to reset and recharge. Just 15 minutes of walking, meditating, knitting, or reading a book can improve your mental state.

  • Delegate to Others: 60 percent of nurses attributed their burnout to having unmanageable workloads. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider delegating some tasks to colleagues who you know are equipped to handle them (and whose workloads are more reasonable). Before you do so, though, make sure to double-check that your manager is comfortable with you delegating tasks to others, and that your state laws allow you to do so.

  • Finds Ways to Decompress: Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress: Some people meditate or do deep-breathing exercises, some go for a run, others listen to music. There’s no one right way to decompress, so try a variety of techniques and see which one works best. Once you find it, you’ll be able to turn to it whenever you start feeling the symptoms of stress creep in.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Cinch™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice. Click here to read our full disclaimer

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