Role Strain and Burnout in Nursing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 4
Words: 1212
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor


Nurses are an essential part of the healthcare setting because they provide patients with critical care. Majorly, the role of a nurse is to provide care to patients and the physically disabled in hospitals and other community settings. Nurses respond to the cases that occur naturally and whose treatment is possible. Otherwise, they issue referral letters to patients whose conditions are beyond their capacity. Nurses work with other health professionals to implement their roles. Despite their commitment, they undergo role strain when they cannot meet the requirements of their social roles. Role strain happens when professionals like nurses have many overlapping roles. That makes one role disrupt their performance in the other position. Furthermore, burnout is mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion due to work-related stress such as long hours and caring for patients who develop poor outcomes. Burnout makes nurses detached, and it can lead to hopelessness and depression.

Effects of Role Stress in Nursing

Stress can lead to a significant effect on individual nurses in the health care sector. The effects of role stress can be worse when it becomes too overwhelming for the nurse. Too much workplace stress can result in poor decision-making, subjecting patients to a considerable risk since a nurse’s decision eventually affects the treatment outcome. Overwhelming role stress can also lead to a lack of concentration. That leads to poor performance due to inadequate attention that nurses tend to offer under pressure.

Poor concentration can also lead to the creation of uncharacteristic errors. It is brought about by exhaustion of the mind. Lack of concentration is often caused by frustrations, leading to a lack of motivation (Mojtahedzadeh et al., 2021). Overlapping roles creates anxiety for nurses, leaving them unmotivated and creating apathy, leading to poor quality of care in their practice. Besides, the strain results in psychological pressure, discomfort, and emotional exhaustion. After all, a nurse has numerous tasks in the same setting, and thus, they feel the pressure to take all the functions.

Too much role stress or strain has a significant effect on patient care. Adverse effects caused by role strain or stress result in poor patient care, especially when nurses lack concentration. It can result in poor treatment outcomes since patients will not get the proper attention and extreme care and reduce the job satisfaction of a nurse (Van der Riet et al., 2018). The productivity of a nurse is poor under stress or strain, thus resulting in poor patient care. Besides, the exhausting nature of nursing work affects their ethical decisions forcing them to display incompatible behaviors. Today’s healthcare is demanding for nurses, and there is often a staff shortage to meet the patients’ needs. For example, critical care nurses might question the value of saving a patient’s life and physiological measures that prolong suffering from no fruitful outcome.

Managing and Reducing Role Stress and Role Strain

Automating repetitive tasks can help reduce the workload of nurses. Tasks such as entering medical information, and updating systems and appointments can be automated. That could be a great relief for a nurse’s busy schedule (Gregory et al., 2017). A positive work culture such as team building activities and team outings can aid in job satisfaction for nurses. Recreational activities can also help a nurse gain a feeling of great accomplishment or satisfaction. A nurse can do puzzles during shift breaks. It can help offer the mind some rest during the break.

A whole night’s sleep has been shown to improve concentration and cognition. If a nurse is working a night shift, then they should take a mid-shift nap. Well-rested minds have proven to increase productivity and reduce impulsivity. Staying hydrated is one of the natural ways of reducing stress. Professional recommendations suggest that a nurse should drink enough water (Stewart & Arora, 2019). Mild dehydration may increase cortisol levels and stress. Meditation by taking time on a busy shift can help manage role stress. Meditation helps reduce anxiety, thus decreasing role stress.

Studies have proved that eating healthy can help reduce stress. A nurse, therefore, is no exception to healthy food and other healthy nutrition practices. A nurse under stress should limit caffeine and processed foods to boost the immune system. A good example is chamomile tea which helps reduce anxiety by improving body stress response (Mojtahedzadeh et al., 2021). Nurses should consider sharing their feelings and talking to friends and family about work-related challenges because it relieves their workplace stress and role strain.

Many factors can cause nurse burnout, including but not limited to lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is common among nurses, as they work long hours and consecutive shifts. Studies show that 25% of nurses do not get enough sleep between work shifts (Stewart & Arora, 2019). Nurses need to adjust their sleep schedule to ensure they get at least eight hours of sleep each day. Enough sleep can foster alertness, stamina, and motivation, which reverses the emotional strain nurses experience from interacting with patient care.

Caring for patients is the most rewarding aspect of nursing, and one is often motivated to join the profession. Nurses working in end-of-life care can experience emotional hardship when dealing with low recovery cases and high death rates. These emotional hardships lead to fatigue and high burnout rates. Nurses who take care of more than four patients per nurse are at higher risk of burnout (Wei et al., 2020). Such nurses should utilize therapy and assistance programs offered by the institutions where they serve. Nurses can also seek therapy services outside their institution. That can help foster their emotional well-being.

Personal Experience

I was positioned in the intensive care unit (ICU), where patients suffer chronic pains as nursing practitioner. At the ICU, the schedule was tight because I had to work long hours, giving patients the proper attention. It was stressful to see patients suffer in agony after understanding that they needed critical care. Sometimes I would get busy to the extent that I could not get time to drink water. Some patients would come with severe illnesses and conditions; sometimes, patients died as their family and friends watched. This caused an emotional strain on me, but the work environment forced me to use poor methods to deal with the stress. It was hard for me to watch family members break down after the loss of their member.

After two years of working, I realized I had not taken any of my time to acknowledge how I had been exhausted that whole time. I had terrible eating habits, and I was getting inadequate sleep. I was projecting my frustrations to other areas of my life. The burnout was accurate at that time. I had to change my eating habit to healthier eating habits. I worked on my sleeping habit, that is, full night sleep.

In conclusion, self-care is not an option in the nursing profession. Nurses can only offer the best quality of care for patients if they have taken measures to care for themselves. From the review of literature, it is worth noting that nurses suffer from chronic workplace stress. A personal experience presented above confirms that nurses are exposed to burnout and turn unproductive in chronic cases. However, the implementation of the changes suggested resolves the burnout cases and makes nurses more productive.


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