There are a number of concerns faced by patients in the hospital. One that is not often discussed but that can play a real factor in treatment is the burnout experienced by nurses. Even during short-term hospitalization, the burnout that nurses face can potentially result in improper care to the patient. Addressed here is whether this is something that has been seen with patients experiencing short-term hospitalization, based on how satisfied they are with their nurses. Literature regarding burnout will be examined, and a survey will be undertaken in order to discover whether patients are having good experiences with the nurses who care for them during their short-term hospitalizations. By discovering whether the patients are happy with the care they are receiving and determining whether that nurse may have been suffering from burnout, it will be possible to draw conclusions regarding whether the nurse’s burnout status affected proper patient care.
Every study needs a strong purpose, and this one is no exception. The question addressed here is:
How does nurse burnout affect patient satisfaction during a patient’s short-term hospitalization?
For purposes of this paper, the definition of nurse burnout is nurses working more than the allocated 37.5 hours per week, due to short staffing, mandated overtime, or extra time. When nurses do this, they often do not get enough time to sleep, rest, or simply decompress from the stresses that come with their job. That can lead them to become burned out on what they do, and can affect patient care.
Review of Literature
The idea behind burnout is very important. It is a psychological issue, and it is generally related to the long-term exhaustion that comes from chronic stress (Bianchi, et al., 2013). The occupation a person is in can have quite a bit to do with whether that person experiences burnout, as well, because some types of work are much more prone to burnout than others. Nursing is one of those occupations. The constant demands on the nurse and the daily requirements to take care of sick people who can also be very demanding can quickly take their toll on the nurse (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). Once that happens, there is a lowered interest in the work that is typically done, and that can lead to carelessness and apathy (Lussier, 2006). While it is understandable that nurses may feel that way, it is also very important to note that these feelings can affect patients and keep them from receiving the proper treatment they really need (Shirom & Melamed, 2005). That can occur even during short-term hospitalizations. It should not be underestimated, and needs to be taken very seriously if anything is going to be done about it that will protect patient care.
There are a number of factors that play a role in burnout, especially for care giving professions like nursing (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). It is not actually seen as a disorder, though. People who have burnout are generally classified as depressed if they are diagnosed with anything specific, but that depression can be strongly linked to the burnout they experience in their job (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). Many people in the nursing profession and related occupations decide that they want to do something else with their lives, mostly because they become burned out with what they are doing, and they do not feel as though they can handle the stress and strain of their job any longer (Maslach & Leiter, 2008). That is certainly not something that happens to every nurse, but it can be a serious problem for nurses who do experience it. When people who struggle with burnout are compared to those who are clinically depressed, it is found that symptoms are nearly identical (Schaufeli, Leiter, & Maslach, 2009).
This does not mean that burnout is “just” depression, though, or that the two issues are not statistically different. The main difference appears to be in what causes the depression and its symptoms. In cases of burnout, it is the job and the stress that comes from that job that causes burnout, which is something that can only be addressed by making changes in employment (Bianchi, et al., 2013). Some nurses choose to work part-time hours, or they find a medical facility like a doctor’s office or clinic that may be less stressful for them than working in a hospital (Shirey, 2006). That can help them feel better, and can also reduce the chances that they will make an error that will affect the well-being of a patient (Bianchi, et al., 2013). Burnout was coined as a term in the 1970s, but has not gotten that much attention in the mainstream literature until more recently (Freudenberger, 1974; Freudenberger & North, 1985). It is more strongly recognized as an actual problem, and that means more nurses and others who experience burnout can be treated for the symptoms that come with it (Shirey, 2006). Changing occupations may be the only realistic way to avoid burnout for some people.
One of the main symptoms of burnout is complete exhaustion (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). The person experiencing this level of burnout may have trouble even getting through the day, and will not feel rested even after getting enough sleep (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). The issue is not one of how much sleep the person gets, but rather more focused on the stress that he or she continues to experience each day on the job. There is no real escape from that stress, and that is why the person never seems to feel rested (Bianchi, et al., 2013; Schaufeli, Leiter, & Maslach, 2009). Even with a typical workweek of 37.5 hours, nurses can experience burnout, but many of them work more hours than that because there are people who call in sick, times when extra staff is needed, and other issues that come into play (Bianchi, et al., 2013). With that in mind, a nurse can easily experience a burnout situation because he or she continually has larger demands placed on him or her than what can be properly handled and processed. This is part of the reason why there is a shortage of nurses, because many of them leave the profession (Shirey, 2006). If they are not replaced by nursing coming into the profession, a shortage can develop quite quickly. That is something that can be hard to handle for hospitals, as they have to meet demands for patient care and cannot easily do so without enough nursing staff (Shirey, 2006).
Burnout is not just about being exhausted, either. It can have both short-term and long-term effects on the person experiencing it. Studies have shown that people who struggle with burnout have more risk of heart disease and circulatory issues, and are also more prone to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety (Bianchi, et al., 2013; Freudenberger, 1974; Shirom & Melamed, 2005; van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). Poor job performance is another commonly seen issue with people who are experiencing burnout, and that is particularly dangerous for nurses because they are entrusted with the lives of others (Bianchi, et al., 2013; van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). If they are not careful and do not take their jobs seriously, they can harm or even cause the death of a patient. While nurses would not mean to do something like that, there is a serious risk when the nurses are struggling with burnout. Patients may not get the right care, and they may end up struggling with their health because they cannot get what they need while they are hospitalized (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli, & Buunk, 1998). Even short-term hospitalizations can be risky in those kinds of cases, as patients deserve proper care that is not affected by burnout (Bianchi, et al., 2013).
There are numerous ways to conduct a study on patients undergoing short-term hospitalization, patient care, and burnout. In this particular study, patients will be questioned via a written survey in order to determine how happy they are with the care they are receiving from their nurses. If they were not satisfied with the care they received, it is important to find out why. In some cases, nurse burnout could be the cause. However, there could also be other factors. That is why the nurses’ schedules will be looked at and compared to the opinions the patients had of those nurses. That way, any nurse who worked more than the allotted or expected hours can be potentially matched up with patients who were not happy with the care they received from that nurse. That could signal burnout in some cases. Patient satisfaction is very important, and when nurse burnout affects that satisfaction the hospital could experience problems. Additionally, nurse burnout can put patients at risk. That means harm coming to patients and the potential for legal problems for the hospital.
A qualitative study that addresses the feelings patients have is the best option for determining patient care and how it correlates with nurse burnout. It is not possible to determine if a nurse is experiencing burnout just because he or she may work more than the 37.5 hours that are expected of that nurse. Instead, one has to consider how the extra work hours are related to the treatment of patients during short-term hospital stays, and if there is a possibility that extra work hours are potentially not related to the treatment of patients and/or burnout. To do that, a qualitative study is the right choice, because quantitative studies will only provide statistical analysis that will not address the thoughts and feelings of the patients. Once patients are actually interviewed through the completion of a survey about their experiences, it is easier to determine whether there is any way to match up the care they have received with the length of time the nurses have been working.
Bianchi, R., Boffy, C., Hingray, C., Truchot, D., & Laurent, E. (2013). Comparative symptomatology of burnout and depression. Journal of Health Psychology, 18(6), 782 — 787.
Freudenberger, H.J. (1974). Staff burnout. Journal of Social Issues, 30(1), 159-165.
Freudenberger, H.J. & North, G. (1985). Women’s burnout: How to spot it, how to reverse it, and how to prevent it. NY: Doubleday.
Lussier, K.G. (2006). Taming burnout’s flame. Nursing Management, 37(4): 14.
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, M.P. (2001). Job burnout, in S.T. Fiske, D.L. Schacter, & C. Zahn-Waxler. Annual Review of Psychology (52): 397 — 422.
Maslach, C., & Leiter, M.P. (2008). Early predictors of job burnout and engagement. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93: 498-512.
Schaufeli, W.B., Leiter, M.P., & Maslach, C. (2009). Burnout: Thirty-five years of research and practice. Career Development International, 14: 204-220.
Shirey, M.R. (2006). Authentic leaders creating healthy work environments for nursing practice. American Journal of Critical Care, 15(3): 256.
Shirom, A., & Melamed, S. (2005). Does burnout affect physical health? A review of the evidence, in A.S.G. Antoniou & C.L. Cooper (eds.)., Research companion to organizational health psychology. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
van Dierendonck, D., Schaufeli, W.B., & Buunk, B.P. (1998). The evaluation of an individual burnout intervention program: the role of inequity and social support. Journal of Applied Psychology (83): 392 — 407.
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