Burnout is a serious and ongoing issue in the nursing profession. Nurses at all levels, including nurse managers, face daily stressors and difficult situations that can lead to anxiety, depression, and even stress-related illnesses. Any or all of these things can cause career-ending discouragement.
The generally accepted antidote to burnout is a quality called resilience. According to the website Health Times, resilience can be defined as the ability to recover and recuperate quickly from a difficult or challenging situation. Although anyone can benefit from resilience, this quality is especially important in high-stress occupations such as nursing. “Being able to bounce back with resilience can equate to better patient care and patient outcomes as nurses will be more alert, stay positive, and practice clearer communication than if they were more stressed out,” the site explains.
In their position as overseers, nurse managers must do double duty on the resilience front. First, they must develop and maintain their own resilience to the best of their ability. Second, they must guide their staff to do the same to prepare the next generation of nurses. The hard and soft skills, training, and general nursing terminology background to manage this important work can be obtained through academic nursing programs, such as Duquesne University’s Nurse Education & Faculty Role MSN. Also offering Post-Master’s Certificate programs to meet the needs of all healthcare providers, Duquesne’s online master’s in nursing prepares each student to become a more resilient nurse and to help others develop this quality as well.
Challenges to Resilience
Before nurse managers can boost resilience in themselves or others, it is helpful to understand the factors that undermine it. The Nursing Executive Center of the organization Advisory Board explains that there are four “cracks in the foundation” that underlie many stressors in the nursing profession:
Safety threats at work.
Nurses sometimes feel that they do not have the tools to handle point-of-care threats. As a result, they may feel unsafe on the job.
Compromises in care delivery.
If staffing levels are too low, nurses may feel rushed and hurried as they go about their everyday duties. They may feel that they do not have the time or resources to deliver safe, effective care to their patients.
No recovery time.
Nurses often bounce from one trauma or difficult situation to another with no downtime in between. Even if services exist to help nurses process their feelings, nurses often have no time to access them.
Modern technologies such as electronic documentation are efficient, but also isolating. Nurses may find themselves spending a great deal of time alone as they complete technology-based tasks.
Before doing anything else, nurse managers and other medical leaders must tackle these issues. Strategies include reducing response time to point-of-care threats, rectifying unsafe staffing levels, mandating emotional support resources for staff, and reconnecting staff through various team-building methods.
After environmental challenges are addressed, nurse managers should take a hard look at their own resilience. Various psychological tools exist to measure this quality and identify a person’s areas of strength and weakness. One proven method is the Resilience @ Work (R@W) Scale. Developed in 2011 by Kathryn McEwen and Dr. Peter Winwood, this scale measures seven qualities that contribute to resilience:
Being solid in one’s personal values and having strong emotional regulation and awareness.
Finding your calling
Feeling a sense of purpose and belonging in one’s work and feeling that the work aligns with one’s core beliefs and values.
Seeing the big picture and not “disasterizing” when setbacks occur; avoiding negativity.
Striving for a work-life balance that helps in managing stressors, relaxing, and recovering from work-related difficulties.
Seeking support, advice, and feedback from others and providing the same type of support yourself.
Eating correctly, staying reasonably fit, and getting enough sleep.
Forming and maintaining support networks, both personally and professionally, to enable maximum job performance.
In one study, the R@W Scale was administered to 48 nurse managers. Most of the managers ranked themselves highly in living authentically, interacting cooperatively, and finding their calling. In other areas, though, most fell short. The study’s authors suggest that the R@W Scale is valuable as a self-assessment tool, guiding nurse managers to address such areas and improve their personal resilience.
Passing It On
Resilience does not stop with the nurse manager; it is an important quality for all nurses to possess. By helping their teams become more resilient, nurse managers can boost the effectiveness and overall mood of their units.
In 2018, the journal Nursing Management reviewed the literature on building nurse resilience. The goal of the study was to identify consistently successful strategies used by nurse managers. Three key strategies emerged:
- Providing formal education. Formal and consistent resilience education helps nurse identify stressors and personal triggers and implement self-care activities that alleviate burnout.
- Providing social support. Managers have countless ways to boost staff’s connection with one another. Nurse managers can be creative in organizing both in-work opportunities and out-of-work social events.
- Providing meaningful recognition. Meaningful recognition can take many forms, such as awards, small tokens of appreciation, or words of praise. Studies show that nurses who feel appreciated are more compassionate with patients and less likely to report being overwhelmed by stress.
These strategies are simple, but they have been proven to work. By using such strategies to boost their staff’s resilience, and helping themselves to develop this quality as well, nurse managers can make a huge difference in the tone and functioning of a medical unit and help their staff to avoid burnout.
About Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing Program
Duquesne University’s online master’s in nursing programs prepare RNs in all stages of their careers to become nurse educators, forensic nurses, and family nurse practitioners. The university offers both MSN and Post-Master’s Certificate degree programs in all three concentrations and provides one-on-one faculty support to encourage academic success.
The university’s MSN in Nursing Education and Faculty Role prepares graduates for the Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE) exam. For more information, contact Duquesne University today.
Burnout in nursing – Health Times
Definition and importance of resilience – Health Times
Challenges to resilience – Nursing Executive Center
R@W Scale – Health Leaders
Passing it on – Nursing Management