MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A survey by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found nearly 70% of nurses said their experiences during the pandemic have caused them to consider leaving nursing.
ICU nurse Angie Wheeler considers the job a calling, but the pandemic posed a test unlike any other in her four decades of experience.
"The pandemic totally changed nursing," she says.
And it's led to a surge in burnout among healthcare workers nationwide. Doctors Community Hospital in Prince Georges County, Maryland, has experienced up to 30% turnover in nursing staff, according to Chief Nursing Officer Crystal Beckford. When asked what it means if hospital systems don't address this, Beckford said, "Operationally, you could come to a standstill. We have to address nursing burnout."
That means rolling out a new self-care strategy, including treats to say thank you, a quiet room to take a breath even if only for a few minutes, mediation over zoom, and techniques shared with new nurses in training.
"Hospitals engaging with their staff and doing the little things really go a long way," says registered nurse and clinical supervisor Ashley Gick.
Gick, a nurse of five years, is using a new tuition assistance program to study management as hospitals innovate ways to retain their critical frontline. "If we keep where we are right now with staffing shortages and increased patient ratios, it burns you out heart and soul," she says.
While healthcare workers are trained to put others first, Wheeler says the most important thing to prevent healthcare workers from burning out is "taking care of yourself first and foremost."
The intensity of the past two years has stressed the importance of taking time to recharge and appreciate life in order to better help others. "It's nice in the midst of things to see some beauty," Wheeler says.
Luminis Health in Maryland says their hospital chaplains are also making rounds to check in on the nursing staff, in addition to the usual job of helping patients and their families.
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