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CNOs on Preventing Burnout and Other Thoughts

In early 2018, Modern Healthcare convened a roundtable of leading Chief Nursing Officers to discuss challenges nurses face today, the ways in which the role of nurses has changed in the value-based care environment and other issues. Here we present some of the key takeaways from that roundtable, along with our own insights.

1. Preventing nurse burnout

The changing role of nurses, the introduction of new technologies to the nursing role and the long hours of work necessitated by the dwindling nursing population all can lead to overwhelming feelings of stress that ultimately contribute to burnout. CNOs who participated in the roundtable cited various ways their organizations are addressing nurse burnout in order to retain good nurses and help them continue to experience the joy of their profession.

Key takeaways:

  • Create a culture of self-care for nurses. Organizations that value nurses should not only encourage nurses to engage in self-care activities like getting plenty of rest between shifts but should proactively offer opportunities for nurses to obtain respite, such as creating low-stimulation break rooms that offer literal peace and quiet for a few minutes during a shift.
  • Provide opportunities for nurses to maintain autonomy. Some organizations accomplish this by moving away from 12-hour shifts, which are known to increase nurse stress, to flexible shifts of two-to-10 hours. Allowing nurses to choose the duration of their workday confers autonomy and enables nurses to adapt their working conditions to fit their personality type. You might also consider introducing nurse self-scheduling, which gives nurses control of their work schedule and might reduce stress.

2. How technology has changed the nursing profession

The roundtable CNOs agreed technology has brought both benefits and challenges to the healthcare environment. On one hand, technology can aid in care coordination by facilitating team communication. On the other hand, technology can overwhelm nurses and other clinicians, adding to their burden of stress.

Key takeaways:

  • Be strategic when choosing technology solutions. Nurses need technology that enhances their ability to provide care, not detracts from it. Be sure any solution your organization chooses does not require a nurse to focus more on the technology than on the patient.
  • Use technology to enhance outcomes and promote teamwork. Options like secure messaging and remote order entry can aid in care coordination and lead to better outcomes. When used strategically, these types of technologies can enable the continuum of care from the hospital bedside into the community by facilitating collaboration with providers outside your own organization.

3. Developing leadership skills in nurses

Fostering a culture of nurse leadership within your organization represents a key strategy for retaining your best nurses and creating a viable succession plan for executive nursing roles.

Key takeaways:

  • Invest heavily in developing nurse leadership. Today’s nurse manager likely leads the largest cohort of people in your organization, so it pays to help these clinicians thrive in their administrative role. Nursing leadership programs might include components such as residency programs for student nurses, shared governance positions, training seminars and degree completion assistance.
  • Offer non-clinical leadership opportunities. To help give nurses a broader view of the healthcare environment, consider designing roles like “safety coach” that provide opportunities for nurses to mentor clinicians and non-clinicians in other departments throughout the organization.

As healthcare systems transform to a value-based model, many organizations recognize the important role nurses can play as partners who bring a unique ability to apply evidence-based practice to managerial as well as clinical decision-making processes. While this change also brings significant challenges, CNOs are taking steps to address issues like nurse burnout to develop the future generation of nurse leaders who will lead the drive to better outcomes and more successful organizations.

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