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Aged-Care Worker Burnout: Strategies to Alleviate

Abstract

Aims and objectives. To define, explore, and alleviate the factors that contribute to the phenomenon of burnout among nurses for in Sydney, as well as expand on the theories of workplace burnout among nurses.

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Background. The significance of resilience among nurses that tend to the needs of aged people can hardly be overrated. Seeing that the nursing staff must develop a deep understanding of the unique needs of the target population, be responsive, and develop empathy toward the patients, emotional exhaustion and, therefore, the threat of burnout, is a common occurrence in the identified area. Hence, it is crucial to study the factors that contribute to the increase in workplace burnout rates among nurses so that the issue could be addressed accordingly.

Design. A qualitative research was carried out to determine the threats that nurses are exposed to in the aged-care setting regularly. Twenty-five participants were interviewed to retrieve the essential information. Afterward, the data was coded and analyzed correspondingly. Furthermore, additional information was acquired by studying the implications of previous researches of the subject matter.

Methods. The interviews were conducted among nurses, managers, and the families of the patients. The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) was utilised as the main tool for acquiring the information. To process the information and deliver the results, a discourse analysis was implemented.

Results. According to the outcomes of the research, several primary factors were identified. The study pointed to the fact that the lack of understanding of stress management, the lack of compliance with the ethics of care, and the staffing issues (particularly, the lack of employees and the inconsistent schedule) were defined as the key factors contributing to the increase in the workplace burnout rates among nurses.

Conclusions. The study shed a lot of light on the issue of burnout among aged-care nurses. Particularly, it became obvious that there is a strong need to reconsider the current approach toward the management of nursing staff’s schedule. Furthermore, the focus on time management and the significance of addressing the needs of the employees were identified.

Implications for practice. The outcomes of the study point to the need to introduce an entirely new management framework that will allow for a better management of nurses; roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, the results of the research may require determining to what degree a nurse must become invested in the patient’s progress so that the customer could receive the required amount of empathy and that the nurse could avoid developing a workplace burnout. Therefore, a further analysis of the subject matter will be required to create a comprehensive strategy for reducing workplace burnout rates among aged-care nurses.

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Implications for Practice

Addressing the needs of aged people requires consistent observations, proper information management (including communication between a nurse and a patient and the process of data transfer among the employees), and high empathy rates among the staff. However, the inconsistencies in the schedule coupled with the increasingly high stress rates aggravated by the complaints from the patients’ family members, leads inevitably to a drastic rise in exhaustion and, therefore, a steep rise in burnout rates among the staff members. Correspondingly, there is an evident need in reconsidering some of the current frameworks of managing the nurses’ work.

Particularly, based on the information retrieved from nurses and working in two Sydney hospitals, it will be crucial to introduce a more flexible time management strategy. By reconsidering the schedule of nurses and recruiting new members that will fill in for the staff partially, one will be able to relieve the employees from a significant amount of distress. Furthermore, the issue regarding the communication with the family members of the patients needs to be brought up. It will be sensible to introduce the tools that will allow the target audience to submit their complaints for the further consideration thereof by the employees. Thus, the emotional strain will drop to a considerable extent. In other words, a digital form for submitting a request, a complaint, or a recommendation will be required (Humpel, Caputi & Martin 2001).

As explained above, the implications for further nursing practice concern primarily the communication issue. However, apart from improving the feedback processing, the nurse administrators will also have to look into the problem of management. As stressed above, it will be imperative to make sure that the employees should remain motivated and that the quality of care should not drop, yet the schedule issue needs to be revisited accordingly. Particularly, it is strongly suggested that new staff members should be recruited so that the workload should not have a devastating effect on the nurses.

Finally, the issue of compassion and empathy must be explored in depth. While studies prove that aged population needs a consistent emotional support from nurses (Jacques 1955), it is, nonetheless, clear that empathy with every single customer exhausts nurses and drains them emotionally. Therefore, the framework for addressing the emotional needs of aged patients must be introduced into the array of tools used by the personnel. While the approach mustn’t devastate the staff members, it will also have to sustain the patients and allow the nurses to cater to their needs. For these purposes, family involvement is suggested. By designing the intervention framework for introducing family members to the process of communication with their aged relatives, one will be able to both relieve the nurses of some of the pressure that contributes to the development of workplace burnout, as well as improve the quality of care since contacts with families are proven to have a significantly positive effect on the recovery and well-being rates among aged patients (Arthur 2004).

The measures listed above are bound to lead to a significant drop in burnout rates among nurses addressing the needs of aged people. However, it should be noted that, for a successful application of the strategy, it will be crucial to implement it at not only the executive level but also at the managerial one. In other words, the policies of the organisation, especially as far as the communication processes, the schedule design, and the involvement of family members are concerned, will have to be altered. Thus, a successful reduction in the aged-care staff burnout levels can be expected within a reasonably short amount of time.

Introduction

Creating the environment in which nurses will be able to deliver the services of the finest quality and meet their responsibilities in a timely and efficient manner is crucial to the well-being of the patients. However, when using a misguided approach toward managing the schedule and responsibilities of nurses, one is likely to create the environment in which nurses may be subjected to an increasingly high threat of developing a workplace burnout. Furthermore, once left unattended, the issue under discussion is likely to spin out of control, leading to even greater issues, such as the development of depression and the associated disorders among nurses (IBIS Care 2007). The nurses operating in the aged-care environment are especially prone to the development of the problem mentioned above because of the increased strain and the number of responsibilities that they must meet regularly. Therefore, it is imperative to explore the environment of aged-care facilities to study the actors to which nurses are exposed in the aid environment and eradicate the risk factors from the facilities successfully.

It would be wrong to claim that the issue in question has never been a dressed before The problems associated with workplace burnouts in nursing facilities, as well as the choice between creating premises for burnout and failing to deliver patient-centred services, have been the dilemma that aged-care nursing facilities have been trying to address for years (Imai 2010). Seeing that the increase in burnout rates affects not only the nurses’ health but also the quality of the delivered services and, hence, the health status of the patients, it is imperative to identify the factors that trigger a rise in workplace burnout rats among nurses and design the management framework that will help handle the problem successfully, meeting the needs of all stakeholders involved (i.e., the staff and the patients).

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To be more accurate, the following steps will have to be carried out in the course of the study: determining the crucial factors; evaluating their effects on the workplace burnout rates among nurses in the aged-care setting; and what strategies can be used to alleviate the located issues and reduce burnout rates among nurses in the designated setting. The outcomes of the research will supposedly help determine the approach that will help reduce the impact of the stress factors that the nurses experience (Ingram 2013).

It should be borne in mind, though, that the phenomenon of burnout is much more complex than merely a combination of factors compelling the staff members to feel exhausted. Therefore, it will be necessary to make sure that all possible areas of the nurses’ operations should be taken into consideration when evaluating the crucial variables and determining the ones that have the greatest impact on the nurses (Altun, 2002).

Main Body

Methods

Seeing that the research question is exploratory, there is no tangible need to quantify the results of the study. Therefore, the use of a qualitative framework as the basis for the research can be viewed a reasonable decision. As far as the nature of the study is concerned, the current research is aimed at tracing the factors that affect the development of the studied phenomenon. Therefore, the study is exploratory (Cohen 2000).

The qualitative exploratory research was conducted in the setting of two local healthcare facilities providing services of aging members of the local population. The nurses, the managers, and the members of the patients’ families were invited to participate in the study. A total of twenty-five participants, including ten personal caterers, comprised the group that accepted the questionnaire and responded to the proposed questions accordingly (Coward 2008).

As far as the test is concerned, a reworked and adapted version of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory tool (CBI) was used as the primary method of designing the interview questions. The specified approach allowed for verifying the data as well of the following discourse analysis could be conducted in an unbiased manner. Furthermore, the device allowed exploring the subject matter from several perspectives. As stressed above, the phenomenon of a workplace burnout is by far too complex to consider it solely from one angle. As a result, the necessity to introduce an array of factors that affected the development of the symptoms and the further progress of the disorder appeared (Hardy, Palmer & Phillips 2000). The CBI tool, in its turn, provided the opportunity of reviewing the problem from several angles and carrying out a comprehensive analysis thereof. As a result, the prerequisites for designing the strategy that will help eradicate the issue of a workplace burnout in the designated setting can be created. It should be borne in mind, though, that the CBI tool was adapted to meet the needs of the study; therefore, its simplified version was represented in the paper. The first part of the test addressed the issue of a personal burnout and, therefore, served as the means of studying the internal factors that may have been affecting the target population (i.e., the family issues, possible health concerns, etc.). The second part of the interview was related to the external factors and, therefore, was supposed to isolate the manageable issues from the extraneous variables. Particularly, the emotional issues that the nurses could have been experiencing in the workplace were mentioned. The third set of questions allowed detecting the possibility of burnout being inflicted by the patient, whereas the fourth one dealt with the predisposing factors (Hansen, Sverke & Naswa, 2009).

To study the outcomes of the test, the interpretive paradigm was used. The opportunities of avoiding the research bias associated with the possible subjectivity of the information retrieved from the respondents can be considered the primary advantage of the tool (Hall et al. 2006). By using the identified approach, one is likely to reduce the subjectivity levels in the research to a considerable extent, therefore, generalising the outcomes to the point where they can become applicable to any setting without causing any adverse effects to the patients or any other stakeholders involved (Ivie & Garland 2010). By definition, the paradigm serves to answer not only the questions of how but also the ones of why the observed phenomenon occurs (Jackson, Schwab & Schuler 1986). As a result, the chances for a profound study of the issue of workplace burnout among nurses can be created (Jawahar, Stone, & Kisamore 2007).

Results

As the results of the test carried out among assistant nurses have shown, among numerous issues that defined the development of workplace burnout among nurses, three themes could be viewed as recurrent and, therefore, worth paying closer attention to. Particularly, the schedule-associated problems (especially the staffing issues), the standards of the work ethics accepted at the identified facilities and the requirements of the patients’ family members should be placed at the top of the list of the primary burnout causes. The reasons for the identified phenomenon to take place are quite obvious. The lack of compliance with the workplace ethics indicates that the leadership approach used by the managers and the leaders of the facilities in question lave much to be desired. In other words, the staff members do not have the strong role model that they could follow to develop the skills required to carry out their tasks in a manner as efficient and expeditious as possible, as well as come up with an elaborate time management framework (Jacques 1955).

Put differently, the outcomes of the research indicate that there is an evident need to introduce a new leadership strategy into the designated nursing settings so that the employees could receive a powerful impetus for their further professional and personal development, including the creation of a better thought out time management framework and the adoption of a more responsible attitude toward the communication between a patient and a nurse (Innstrand, Espnes, & Mykletun 2004). For instance, the importance of using the support of family members instead of shifting the responsibility of communicating with the patient to the nurse entirely needs to be mentioned as a possible avenue for reducing the stress levels among the target audience and, therefore, contributing to a drop in the workplace burnout rates among nurses (Jenull-Schiefer, Brunner, Ofner, &Mayring 2007). The time management issues, the possible language barriers, and the problems associated with staff shortage, as well as the proficiency of nurses, can also be named among the primary reasons for the burnout rates increase, as the results of the study indicate (Jansen & Murphy 2009).

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Discussion

The issues associated with the time management problem, as well as the fact that some nurses do not have the required level of proficiency, however, are surprisingly easier to address than the management concerns voiced above. Furthermore, the outcomes of the study pointed quite clearly to the fact that both nursing facilities could use an update of their ethics policy. Indeed, as the outcomes of the study have shown, on a range of occasions, the participants of the study returned to discussing the issues associated with the lack of compliance with the basic ethical principles that a nursing facility must follow (Jenkins & Ostchega 1986). Therefore, there is an evident necessity to redesign the current approach toward promoting ethical principles among the staff members. The identified goal, however, will also require that the very foundation of the leadership framework used in the organisations under analysis should be altered completely (Jenull-Schiefer, Salem, & Brunner 2010). The employees will have to be provided with a set of rigid ethical standards and with a positive role model that they will have to view as the reference for addressing specific ethical dilemmas, the personnel will be able to improve the quality of care to a considerable extent. As a result, the threat of a workplace burnout among the target audience will drop greatly (Joinson 2007).

One must mention, however, that, when complaining about the quality of care, some of the participants pointed to the communication issue. To be more exact, the quality of feedback processing, as well as the overall process of handling the requests of patients, left much to be desired (Jennings 2008). One might argue that the associated concerns should be traced back to the problem of ethics. However, apart from the lack of care that nurses may display in the course of offering their services, the time management issue may also be viewed as the possible source of a drop in the quality of aged-care services. Indeed, with the increase in the workload and the need to process a large quantity of data, the staff members are likely to fail to meet the requests of the patients in the expected amount of time (Bloom & Farragher 2010). Hence, the dissatisfaction of the patients, the following rise in stress levels, and the further development of workplace burnout can be expected.

As stressed above, the associated problems can be addressed by reconsidering the leadership approach and the set of values that are currently being used in the context of both organisations. Although the significance of a patient-centred framework can hardly be overrated, especially in the setting as challenging as the aged-care environment, the managers must meet needs of not only the patients but also the employees Consequently, a better model for managing the roles and responsibilities of the personnel will be required (Bottrill & Mort 2003).

One might argue, however, that the outcomes of the study cannot be viewed as homogenous because of the tangible differences in the responses of the participants. Indeed, the differences in the approaches used by the staff members, as well as in the levels of their sincerity, do not allow viewing their responses as completely unbiased. Put differently, the results of the test should be viewed with a few grains of salt due to the human factor and the possibility of the participants providing the information that represents them in positive light (Jones 2002).

Limitations

The limitations of the study are predetermined by the qualitative design that was selected to investigate the problem. Particularly, the choice of the research design predetermined the weaknesses of the study. For instance, because of the necessity to restrict the range of participants to the setting of only two healthcare facilities, the results of the research may be inapplicable to some setting that can be deemed as very specific. Differently put, the outcomes of the work can only be applied to address general instances of workplace burnouts among nurses. However, when considering some of the specific cases and having to address unique factors, one may deem the results of the current research as not quite relevant.

Nevertheless, the paper can be considered an important addition to the overall increase in awareness about the issue of workplace burnouts among nurses. Despite the fact that the problem seems to have been gaining an increasingly large amount of weight over the past few years, few to none measures have been introduced so far to resolve it on a global scale. The implications of the current research, in their turn, are bound to provide the foundation for catering to the needs of nurses worldwide, thus, reducing the threat of burnouts and the associated issues, such as depression development, stress levels increase, etc.

Conclusion

The current research has shed a lot of light on the nature of workplace burnout as a phenomenon occurring among nurses in the setting of two local facilities. Furthermore, the results of the study can be viewed as the foundation for building the approach that will allow reducing the phenomenon not only in the setting described above but also at a global level. Particularly, the research indicated that the influence of the factors such as the communication issues, the lack of a proper time management framework, and the consistent problems associated with the staff shortage, as well as the lack of high-quality resources, need to be mentioned among the primary factors triggering the development of workplace burnouts. Therefore, an immediate introduction of the measures that will help to as the tension and offer the staff members an opportunity to improve the communication process must be introduced into the design of the facilities in question, as well as the environment of aged-care nursing, in general.

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