Why do Nurses Experience Burnout?


Why do NursesExperience Burnout?

Burnout is a highly unusual type of stress disorder that isessentially characterized by emotional exhaustion, lack of empathywith patients, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personalaccomplishments. The nature of the work that healthcarepractitioners perform predisposes them to emotional exhaustion. Onthe other hand, the lack of empathy towards patients is caused by thenurses feeling that they are underpaid and unappreciated. Numerousresearches have associated burnout with the increasing rate of nurseturnover. This paper explores the causes of burnouts in nurses aswell as what can be done to prevent the them.

First, nurses experience burnout because of their unrealizedexpectations which result in frustration. Upon graduating fromcolleges, new nurses are so excited to embark on the course thatprompted them to choose nursing as a career. However, upon securing ajob, they find that things on the ground are not as they had expectedthem to be and this results in some of them deciding to leave theprofession early. Research shows that turnovers within the nursingfraternity target person below the age of 30(Erickson &amp Grove, 2011). The high turnover within the nursingfraternity results in a massive nurse shortage. This means that thenurses who decide to stay have to work for many hours resulting inexhaustion. A significant percent of nurses quittingtheir job sites exhaustion and discouragement as the reason thatcontributed to their decision. In one of the studies conducted on theissue of nurse turnover, 50% of the nurses leaving the professionargued that they felt saddened and discouraged by what they wereunable to do for their patients(Erickson &amp Grove, 2011 . When a nurse witnesshis/her patients suffering but cannot do anything because of theprevailing conditions he/she feels as if he/she is not realizing thereason that prompted him/her to join the nursing profession. Thehigher rate of nursing turnover is also affecting the quality of carenurses provide to their patients. For example, 40% ofthose who wanted to leave the profession associated their decision totheir concerns over the quality of the patient care(Erickson &amp Grove, 2011) The scarcity of nursesmeans that personalized care is not possible. This results in afeeling of unsatisfaction on the part of nurses who have much desireto serve their patients by all means possible. In the same research,26% of the nurses who were planning on quitting their jobs said thatthey feared for the patients (Erickson&amp Grove, 2011). After realizing that there is nothing they can doto ameliorate the suffering their patients are going through, nurseschoose to ignore the plight of their clients.

Apart from unrealized expectation, burnouts in nurses are also causedby poor management. Nurses who report experiencing burnout attributetheir condition to little to no support from their supervisors. Aresearch conducted on 1,780 registered nurses revealed that manynurses consider their managers as offering low-quality supervisionand supervisor support(Jennings, 2011 . In the study, 28.6% identified theproblems with their supervision as poor unit leadership, insufficientphysical presence, moderate awareness of the various staffing issues,and failure to address the problems facing the nurses(Jennings, 2011). The inadequate support from theirsupervisor is worsened by poor communication. When nurses perceivethat the management is ignoring their plight by failing to respond totheir concerns, they feel undervalued and unappreciated. Some nursessay that they feel unappreciated by the physicians and the patients.This results in some of them choosing to ignore the plight of theirpatients.

In addition to poor management, burnouts among nurses are also as aresult of being underpaid. Nurses work for more than 12 hours everyday for three or more days every week, yet they are grossly underpaidconsidering the level of care they are expected to deliver. The longworking hours result in nurses experiencing emotional exhaustion. Thecondition worsens when the nurses perceive themselves as beingunderpaid. In a study conducted in the State of New York, 45% ofnurses attributed the stress-related exhaustion in their job to poorsalaries and compensation(Cox, et al., 2014). Between the 1980s and 1990s,nurse salaries were rising at an average of 3% every year. However,since 1997, the salaries have gone down by 17%. On average, every anurse receives $60,700 every year(Cox, et al., 2014). However, some registered nursesreceive even lower salaries in most South Eastern States such asMississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee (Nazor, 2016).When nurses are underpaid, they lack the motivation to continueserving their clients. This result in the nurses experiencing signsof burnouts, for example, the lack of empathy toward their patients. Besides, research shows that some nurses enter the profession for thewrong reason. Some nurses choose to pursue the career due to theirdesire to help the patients. However, a study conducted on 700registered nurses found that those who are motivated mainly by thedesire to help others instead of the enjoyment of their work havehigher chances of suffering from burnout(Nazor, 2016).Upon entering the profession for thewrong reasons, some nurses find it hard to leave due to the fear ofthe net effect of their exit. Instead of leaving, they continue beingexposed to factors such as underpayments, poor management, andunrealized expectations which worsen their burnout condition.

Some of the strategies that can help prevent the high burnout rateamong nurses include social and psychological support as well asempowerment. Organizations should create an open environment wherenurses have an avenue for mutual support. Examples of a program thatmay result in mutual support among nurses include sharing of workloadamong team members. Additionally, organizations should create timefor social interaction among nursing teams. This can be done throughsocial events such as annual retreats. Social events help to addressthe issue of burnout by building trust and strong bond between nurses(Portnoy, 2011). The other strategy for dealing with the issue ofnurse burnout is supervisor support. Healthcare facilities shouldencourage meetings between the nurses and supervisors to talk aboutissues affecting their work. Apart from receiving support from theircolleagues and supervisors, nurses need to be empowered. One way ofempowering them is by providing the with better salaries andremuneration. The other way is by availing to them opportunities foradvancing their education, such as by refunding the tuition fee. They should also be provided with an opportunity to climb theprofession ladder such as through promotions. Nurses also needpsychological empowerment which includes encouraging them to adopthealthy self-care habits which include taking work breaks, sleep, andproper nutrition (Portnoy, 2011). Besides nurses can be empoweredpsychologically by being offered more autonomy, which helps to boosttheir confidence.

In conclusion, burnouts are major problems ailing the health caresystems in America. The condition is characterized by the lack ofempathy towards the patients, emotional exhaustion, and reducedpersonal accomplishment. One of the major consequences of burnout inthe nursing fraternity is the high turnover affecting the profession.In turn, the high turnover creates nurse shortage which in turnaffects the quality of health care. Some of the causes of burnoutinclude unrealized expectations. A majority of nurses leavingcolleges enter the job market with a great desire to help thepatients. However, upon securing the job, they realized that this isnot possible considering their small number as well as the inadequateresources. Also, burnout in nurses is as a result of poor managementwere nurses experience little to no support from their supervisors,physicians, and patients. Nurses are also underpaid such that theonly motivation some of them have for not leaving the profession istheir concerns for their patients. To address the problem, nursesneed to receive higher salaries. In additional to salaries, hospitalsneed to ensure that nurses enjoy social and psychological support.


Cox, P.,Willis, W. K., &amp Coustasse, A. (2014). The American Epidemic: TheUS Nursing Shortage and Turnover Problem. Paper presented at BHAA2014, Chicago, IL.

Erickson, R.,&amp Grove, W., (2011). Why Emotions Matter: Age, Agitation, andBurnout among registered nurses. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing13(1).

.Jennings, B.M. (2011). Work stress and burnout among nurses: Role of the workenvironment and working conditions. Accessed on October 6, 2016.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2668/

Nazor, K. H.(2016). “Nurses feel overworked, underpaid and over-stressed.” Accessed on October 6, 016.http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2016/jan/26/overworked-underpaid-uber-stressed/346116/

Portnoy, D. (2011). “Burnout and Compassion Fatigue.” Accessed onOctober 6, 2016. Ahttp://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/healthprogress.pdf