Nursing is a calling as well as a career. Most people who become nurses have a passion for caring for others and an intense devotion to their work that can lead to burnout when they are emotionally, physically, and intellectually drained by the demands of their job. ASC nurses aren't immune to burnout, but there are ways Ambulatory Surgery Centers can minimize burnout to ensure good mental health for their nurses and the best possible care for their patients.
Be Aware of the Early Warning Signs
Burn-out doesn't usually happen overnight; it builds slowly over time. Catching the signs of an impending burnout can help you address the situation and give your nurses the tools they need to refresh themselves and rediscover their love for the job. Look for signs of cynicism and apathy. Has a nurse recently been more abrupt with patients? Do they seem irritable or out of sorts when working? If nurses talk about not being able to "shut off" their thoughts about work when they're at home or complain of insomnia, it's time to put together a plan to combat burnout.
Don’t Skip Breaks
There may be times when you need all hands on deck for an emergency, but at an ASC, there should be very few times when nurses have to skip a break. While nurses can work eight hours straight, it doesn't mean they should. Regular breaks are a right and are essential to optimal on-the-job performance. Ensure your staff members are taking appropriate breaks and encourage them to step away from their workstations to relax and unwind throughout their shifts.
Offer Wellness Programs
Self-care is essential to prevent burnout. While you can't regulate employees' habits at home, you can encourage taking proper care of themselves through wellness programs. Yoga, aerobics, massage therapy, and weight loss programs can improve physical and mental health.
Address Nurse’s Concerns
If you aren’t listening when nurses complain about problems in the ASC, you are contributing to burnout. Nurses who feel they aren't being taken seriously will burn out quickly. They feel their needs aren't being addressed and that the ASC management doesn't respect them. Make sure concerns about scheduling, workload, and other issues are addressed and corrected appropriately. Schedule monthly meetings to allow nurses to air their concerns and discuss possible solutions.
Give Them the Right Tools
Tracking patient progress, ordering supplies for surgical suites, scheduling procedures, and dozens of other tasks performed by nurses contribute to burnout. when an ASC is using archaic technology or relying on outdated software, frustration can quickly build and lead to errors. Investing in ASC management software now will minimize nurse burnout later.
Praise is a powerful motivator. After a particularly rough day, being commended for your work can give you an instant boost. Be lavish in your appreciation of your nurses. Recognition and small rewards send the message that nurses are valued and a vital part of the surgical team. Just knowing the Ambulatory Surgery Center appreciates their expertise and care can minimize depression and give nurses a renewed sense of purpose. Recognition can take many forms, including bonus time off, a gift card for a local restaurant or service, or a personal gift. Avoid giving gifts with the ASC’s logo, as these can be seen as more of an advertising ploy than a heartfelt recognition. Make it all about them.
Support Groups/Counseling Services
Provide nurses with information about support groups and counseling services. Many nurses find their stress is diminished if they can vent to others who understand what they’re going through. Support groups are a safe place to discuss what bothers them and get feedback from other nurses who share coping mechanisms that work for them. Nurses who are in the later stages of burnout can benefit from professional counseling.
Give Time Off Generously
Many people talk about work/life balance but ignore it until an ASC realizes their nursing staff turnover has reached critical levels. Working long hours in a high-stress environment leads to exhaustion and mental fatigue. When nurses request time off, be generous. Give them the time they need to spend with their families, relax, and recuperate. A mental health day can rejuvenate your nurses, who will return with an improved outlook and renewed focus.
Combating nurse burnout requires compassion and willingness to change what isn’t working. Seeing your nurses as human beings outside of their roles in your ASC is the first step toward promoting a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle that minimizes burnout and improves employee retention.