Burnout in the Nursing Workforce

Burnout has been identified as one of the major problems that nurses face in the contemporary nursing environment. By definition, burnout is “a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, and low self-efficacy resulting from chronic work strains” (Rosa, Schlak & Rushton., 2020 p.29). In short, burnout is an extreme form of fatigue occasioned by intense job demands. According to Aktan et al. (2020), there has been a considerable increase in the prevalence of burnout among nurses within the past ten years. Although anyone, regardless of their profession, is prone to burnout, nurses are particularly vulnerable due to the nature of their work. Besides interacting directly with diverse patients, nurses may regularly be called to work at night (Aktan et al., 2020). The latter scenario has been more pronounced in recent times with the COVID-19 menace, where shift lengths have increased, healthcare professionals required to work consecutively and being put on-call frequently (Rosa et al. 2020). As a result, nurses do not have sufficient rest periods. This paper explores the topic of burnout in the nursing profession with the aim of offering solutions to the problem. The paper begins with a discussion of the topic’s significance in terms of how burnout affects nursing practice. Diverse views regarding how the problem are presented.

Significance of the Topic

It is important to explore the issue of burnout in the nursing profession because it is an issue that affects quality of service delivery and the effectiveness of healthcare in the US. As reported by Rosa et al. (2020), the overall performance and quality of the US healthcare system will be determined, to a significant extent, by the degree to which nurses’ welfare and needs are addressed. With nurses constituting 59% of America’s healthcare workforce, and with the numerous changing practice issues that they face (Rosa et al, 2020), it is very important for them to be provided with a conducive work environment.

Dealing with burnout will greatly help in enhancing effectiveness in nursing. Research reveals that burnout causes myriad problems that include insomnia, weakness, depression, anxiety, mistrust, hostility, aggression, indifference, and nervousness (Aktan et al., 2020). All these lead to reduced performance in the workplace. In the nursing context, burnout has been established as a cause of depression, job dissatisfaction, suicidal thoughts, high staff turnover, and absenteeism, which affects workforce stability (Rosa et al., 2020). Depressed and dissatisfied nurses are likely to commit more medical errors, which may compromise patient safety (Rosa et al., 2020).

The impact of burnout on the nursing profession may be summarized as follows: burnout negatively affects nurse performance, creates new psychological problems, reduces nurses’ morale-which breeds strong intentions to quit, and affects quality of patient care. Combining these factors creates a situation where the primary goal of healthcare, which is to deliver quality care to patients and uphold patient safety, is compromised.

Proposed Solutions

Aktan et al. (2020) make interesting suggestions to address the issue of burnout in the nursing profession. For example, the authors propose that stress management together with sleep hygiene be incorporated into the curriculum taught in nursing schools. They also recommend more physical activity, regulation of diet together with sleep, and restricted substance use. While these suggestions are valid, a few are not realistic and practical. For example, it is somewhat counteractive to ask a nurse to practice sleep hygiene in a context where he/she can be called to work any time of the day or night. More importantly, burnout primarily arises from an unconducive work environment where there are too many job demands and inadequate resources (Rosa et al., 2020). In light of this, the solutions offered by Aktan et al. (2020) are unrealistic because they seem to put the blame on nurses/individuals, implying that lifestyle issues and inability to manage stress are the causes of burnout.

Personal Views

In view of the flaws in the above thinking regarding solutions to burnout in nursing, it is felt that a more feasible idea would be to improve the working environment for nurses. For example, nurses working longer hours should be allowed to take breaks regularly. Secondly, nurses should be empowered and encouraged to report any issues, concerns, and challenges they may be facing in the workplace. They should be assured that action will be taken on any concerns they raise. At the same time, nurses could consider becoming each other’s support system. Acknowledging that they face a common problem of burnout, they should agree and commit to being there for one another anytime one feels overwhelmed and is contemplating quitting. In short, it would be helpful for nurses and healthcare providers to function as a unit that offers psychological support to each other in times of burnout.


Burnout is a major obstacle to the effective delivery of service in healthcare. With nurses being an integral component of America’s healthcare workforce, any issue that impedes their ability to satisfactorily attend to patients must be addressed with urgency. That the workforce is not sufficient to meet the demand for healthcare has been a key issue; it is even worse that the available workforce faces challenges that could drive a substantial percentage of them to quit the profession altogether. Having learnt from the ongoing COVID-19 menace that stubborn diseases and infections for which no cure is available can strike any time, there is urgent need for governments to find and implement lasting solutions to reduce incidence of burnout among nurses. It is vital that nurses be taught how to cope with job demands, but most importantly, the government must try as much as possible to make the environment conducive for nurses to execute their very noble yet demanding duties without feeling perpetually overwhelmed.


Aktan, G., Baysal, E., Eser, I., Sari, D., & Yildirim, G. O. (2020). Sleep Behaviours and Burnout in Nursing Students: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Caring Sciences13(2), 1123-1134.

Rosa, W. E., Schlak, A. E., & Rushton, C. H. (2020). A blueprint for leadership during COVID-19: minimizing burnout and moral distress among the nursing workforce. Nursing Management51(8), 28-34.

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