HUP takes steps to prevent nurse burnout

The Center for Nursing Renewal will offer a peaceful respite from the pressure of patients and overtime work

· October 9, 2012, 10:39 pm

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Somewhere in the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania, there is a stress-free zone for nurses to rest and regroup.

The Center for Nursing Renewal, opened and operated by HUP, is part of the hospital’s efforts to decrease nurse burnout.

A recent School of Nursing study found a direct correlation between overworked nurses and patient infections, injuries and death rates. The study surveyed more than 7,000 nurses in Pennsylvania and found them to be overwhelmingly dealing with burnout-related issues that include too many overtime hours and increase in patient load.

The nurses were found to be dealing with burnout with a patient load of 5.7 per shift on average. When increased by one more patient, there were 1,351 additional infections reported, according to the study by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.

Though nurse burnout isn’t a pressing issue at HUP, the hospital has been making every effort possible to prevent it.

“Nurse burnout can arise from emotional exhaustion and continuous exposure to difficult patient and family matters,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, HUP clinical director of nursing operations. “Nurse burnout is a sustained condition over time that looks different depending on the individual.”

Fitzpatrick added that HUP is moving toward a “shared governance model, which empowers clinical front-line nurses to be involved in decision making.”

This model flattens the hierarchy and allows the hospital to maintain nurses, she said.

The hospital’s recognition committee and Jean Romano, director of HUP’s Nursing Network Center, helped turn an area that was previously used for radiology into the Center for Nursing Renewal, which opened in October 2011.

“This is an area where nurses can take time away from their day, on a routine basis or if something has gone wrong, to regroup and reenergize,” Romano said.

From 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., nurses can freely enjoy a break room, personal meditation room, lactation lounge, massage chairs, televisions and computers. The center also offers free fitness and nutrition classes.

In another effort to prevent nurse burnout, the hospital invested money into ceiling mounted lifts — overhead slings with a battery-powered hoist to lift and transport patients — to minimize the physical demand on nurses.

“This was a decision made to minimize injuries, such as micro-fractures due to nurses moving patients on their own,” Fitzpatrick said.

Although HUP is doing its part to minimize burnout, Fitzpatrick said there are ways that the individual nurses can help prevent it as well.

“Burnout can stem from a work-life imbalance and lack of self-care, such as poor nutrition,” Fitzpatrick said. “Employees should come to work well-rested, and through the Nursing Renewal Center, they can enroll in Weight Watchers and free smoking cessation programs.”

“It’s all connected to promote a healthy hospital environment,” Romano added.

Fitzpatrick said that monitoring how much overtime a nurse signs up for is a way to help them balance their workload. Overtime regulations are aimed at making hospitals safer for both patients and nurses.

However, even if a hospital takes every precaution to prevent nurse burnout, it can still happen.

“There are opportunities for nurses to move into different areas,” Romano said. “HUP has a high retention rate, so if a nurse comes to the point where they are not as engaged, there is always another opportunity elsewhere in the hospital.”

“We got good at being proactive and seeing what we could do to at least minimize burnout because unfortunately, it will never be a non-issue,” she added.

Even nurses in training seem to have faith in themselves and the job.

“I am a little worried about keeping it in that I might be overworked and quickly get tired of my job,” Nursing junior Natalie Ball said. “However, nursing will never just be my job, so as long as I can keep that love and mentality, I think I will be okay.”

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