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Mitigating nurses' burnout during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 1:08 PM, Sep 30, 2020

In a pandemic that relies heavily on the expertise and passion of our healthcare workers, we have seen many doctors and nurses working longer hours and even risking their own health to care for those in need.

“This is a pandemic that's going to continue to go on. And a lot of health care providers in different settings have already been asked to work overtime shifts or extra shifts. And the thing is, that’s just increasing the burnout,” said Dr. Jessica Rainbow, RN and UArizona College of Nursing assistant professor.

“Before the pandemic burnout was already a normalized issue in Nursing. And what I mean by that is that more nurses than not experienced burnout than those who have what I would call good well-being and don't suffer from burnout,” said Chloe Littzen, RN and UArizona College of Nursing Ph.D. candidate.

Rainbow and Littzen are seeking ways to mitigate nurse burnout during the coronavirus pandemic. They say the pandemic has only intensified the problem.

“They either leave the setting that they're in. Let's say they're in one unit, they go to another unit. They leave that facility going from, let's say, the hospital setting to the community setting or vice versa, or they leave nursing completely,” said Littzen.

That puts the industry in a tough spot. The nursing shortage also affects the ability to educate future nurses and the ability to do more research.

“It's important to say that this is not an issue that is the nurse's fault right or any healthcare provider or anyone who works in a healthcare setting,” said Rainbow.

From their research, they say health care workers are shown to have good self-care, but it’s the systems of the work environment that can be stressful.

“Where they're actually given the resources that they need to be successful. So resources as far as things like PPE, things like having adequate staffing,” said Rainbow.

They say a big factor is also the public. Loved ones of those in care can help by being understanding and by adhering to guidelines, such as wearing a mask.

“You know, it's important to give grace and struggling times and everyone's emotions are heightened and stressed and you know nurses are people, too. They're also a human being and they're also suffering with you,” said Littzen.

They found nurses have done things like meditation, spending more time in nature, and seeking peer groups to voice shared experiences.

“Social support is huge for nurses. I mean, especially to when you were a provider and you have a job where your significant other at home may not fully understand what you do. And so it's difficult sometimes if you don't have the social support of other co-workers in the same position,” said Rainbow.

Rainbow’s study is called “Working in Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Participants can access the consent form with study information online or contact her for more information. Littzen’s dissertation study is called “Young Adult Nurse Work-Related Well-being, Contemporary Practice Worldview, Resilience, and Co-Worker Support.”

This story was first reported by Taja Davis at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.