The importance of nurse well-being has perhaps never been more widely recognized than it is now during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to working long hours under incredible stress while understaffed, nurses are also worried about their own health and the possibility of contracting the virus and taking it home to their families. They often carry the burden of comforting patients in their last moments, making it hard for them to come to work every day with a passion for their job.
Because of these enormous stressors, many nurses are experiencing burnout, which negatively affects their ability to provide high-quality patient care. However, a recent well-being initiative announced by the American Nurses Association (ANA) offers support to buoy these struggling nurses.
Why Is Nurse Well-Being Important?
Nurses are inherently caregivers, and because of this, their focus is on others and not themselves. However, as explained in the article "How Nurse Burnout Affects Patient Care," overworked nurses "often don't realize their own health is at risk." Nevertheless, high levels of burnout continue to exist for nurses due to the strain of "long journeys" with chronically or seriously ill patients and their families, compromised interpersonal relationships and heavy workloads.
Nurse well-being is important not only for providers' personal health but also because nurses who are dissatisfied with their work tend to leave their jobs, which is costly for employers. Research has also shown that burnout impacts other healthcare team members because nurses and healthcare providers who are burned out and dissatisfied with their jobs tend to "feed on each other" negatively, making the work environment even more difficult.
How Does Nurse Well-Being Affect Patient Care?
Nurses spend the most time with patients of all clinicians and healthcare providers. So when the well-being of nurses is compromised, so is patient care.
Not surprisingly, research shows a direct relationship between patient care quality and burnout in nurses. Specifically, high burnout in nurses is associated with more patient dissatisfaction with nursing care and more complaints from families and patients. The report notes: "this can be explained by emotional fatigue and depersonalization, which trigger in the health professional the feeling of exhaustion and cynicism, becoming distant and cold in front of the patients' needs, which compromises the quality of care."
In addition, patient safety decreases when high levels of nursing burnout are identified, and breakdown in nursing teamwork occurs, which directly impacts patient care.
What Is the ANA National Well-Being Initiative and How Can It Help Nurses?
The ANA National Well-Being Initiative was launched in May 2020 to help frontline nurses manage the stresses of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The ANA's initiative is "developed by nurses for nurses" and provides a variety of resources to help nurses seeking help for their mental and emotional well-being.
The initiative intends to provide nurses with resources that meet their preferred stress management style and personal preference in reaching out for help. Resources include writing workshops where nurses can express their feelings and thoughts, virtual online groups where nurses can share their experiences with others and opportunities to speak with someone one-on-one. "The comprehensive offering includes both responsive measures (peer-to-peer conversations, warmlines, hotlines, cognitive processing techniques) and preventive actions (stress reduction, mindfulness and educational materials) ..."
The well-being of nurses is critical to the security of the entire system, including hospitals, patients and the healthcare team. When nursing wellness suffers, so does patient care and patient safety. The AMA's National Well-Being Initiative offers nurses resources designed by nurses who understand the daily struggles these frontline professionals are enduring. In doing so, nurses exhausted by the pandemic have better access to hope and a means of reprieve and healing.
Learn more about the University of Rhode Island's online RN to BS in Nursing program.
National Center for Biotechnology Information:
Influence of Burnout on Patient Safety: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
The Effects of Nursing Satisfaction and Turnover Cognitions on Patient Attitudes and Outcomes: A Three‐Level Multisource Study
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