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How to Address Nursing Burnout with An Employee Wellness Program

How to Address Nursing Burnout with An Employee Wellness Program

“Nurses see the world in its most raw, inexplicable, unfair form of reality and somehow, by the grace of their inherent hope for humanity and unmeasurable depth of courage, still love it.” – Danielle Leveck, @nurseabnormalities

Burnout among nurses is at an all-time high.

The pandemic escalated an already tenuous situation—so much so that nearly a third of health care workers have been rethinking their choice of profession.

While health care organizations are grappling with incredibly high turnover rates, they also have front-line workers’ health to worry about. Report after report coming out during the pandemic reveal health care workers are struggling with a host of increased physical and mental health issues, including PTSD, rampant alcoholism and drug use, and chronic insomnia.

Addressing the Employee Mental Health Crisis: An Action Guide for Managers


So, what does this mean for health care organizations?

For starters, they aren’t alone. Nearly every company has had to deal with the impacts of employee burnout and mental health in the past year—and they’re still working on those issues.

The stressors leading to nursing burnout will not go away overnight, unfortunately–especially as the pandemic turns a corner with a new variant. And the effects of the extreme stressors we’ve been seeing? Those effects are going to reverberate for quite a long time.

That’s why health care organizations need to put measures in place now to help their nurses, technicians, physicians and other front-line workers deal with the seemingly endless stress that leads to burnout.

What measures are those? That depends entirely on your nurses and their particular needs, so the first step should be to listen to what they’re saying. Once you know their precise stressors, you can develop a multipronged strategy for reducing or mitigating them.

Preventing Nursing Burnout: Small Steps Make a Big Difference

Regardless of how well your wellness program may have been working before the pandemic, it has surely been a test of its effectiveness. To combat the burnout that nurses were—and are once again— feeling, you’ll need to get creative. Your frontline workers are putting in long hours to care for hopelessly ill patients, which has and can continue to push many too close to their breaking point.

You’ll need to take an inventory of your existing services and identify what else you can do to meet the needs of your workforce. Here are some steps that can really add up:

A Wellness Newsletter

The first order of business? Get everyone on the same page with regular communications.

Develop an online newsletter that keeps all employees up-to-date on safety protocols, resources, donations and other pertinent information. Be sure to regularly remind your employees to make themselves a priority and practice self-care whenever possible.

Your wellness program inventory likely revealed that some of your fantastic wellness services aren’t being utilized—and that’s going to be a problem if you want to help address burnout. Create and push out communications that encourage employees to take advantage of what you offer.

EAP Services

Like most companies, you likely offer mental health care through a dedicated vendor. But how many of your nurses and front-line workers take advantage of the counseling available to them?

Remind employees about EAP services in your newsletter and other company wide communication channels, and make the same messaging accessible with webinars that can be watched on-demand. This allows front-line workers to work on their emotional health when it’s most convenient for them, whether they are in the break room taking a short breather or at home trying to decompress from their shift.

Health Coaching/Wellness Services

If your wellness program doesn’t include health coaching, it should. People tend to de-prioritize their own wellness when they are stressed. Poor eating and fitness habits naturally set in, which makes it important to create personal goals related to diet and nutrition, physical health and disease management. Coaching can help employees create attainable goals and a plan for healthy habit formation (and maintenance!).

The same goes for financial wellness. Having the coaching and support to create and track spending journals allows employees to be more intentional and confident.

While any company can offer these types of services to their employees, having a coordinated and streamlined program facilitated by a platform like WellRight’s can help with seamless implementation.

How Your Wellness Platform Can Help

A good wellness platform keeps your program organized and makes participation easier for employees—everything they need is accessible from a computer or their phone.

However, convenience isn’t enough. If you want nurses to adopt, use and enjoy your wellness platform to combat nursing burnout, you need to make it fun and rewarding too. That’s where smart, meaningful incentives and creative wellness challenges come in.

Incentives To Drive Participation

The key to successful incentives is just that: success. Remember that nurses have been experiencing devastating amounts of stress, so don’t set them up for failure and discouragement by creating unattainable goals and incentives.

Instead, our most successful clients—the ones with at least an 80% wellness program participation rate—use a multitiered reward system based on a number of factors like utilization of specific services, challenge completion, health risk assessments, lab screenings and other program elements.

You need to reward effort, starting with a baseline that will help inform overall corporate wellness. Here’s an example of how that could work:

  • Tier 1 - Participants receive points for baseline activities such as completing a health risk assessment and annual wellness visit via telehealth or in person
  • Tier 2 - Additional points awarded for participating in and completing wellness challenges and activities
  • Tier 3 - Set a high goal of points to earn and incentivize consistent participation to prioritize well-being with a high-value reward such as a discount on insurance premiums, gift cards, or other rewards

Another reason to reward baseline participation? The higher your participation numbers, the better of an idea you’ll have of which employees are most at risk for disease and mental health issues. It provides a snapshot of which activities and offerings will be most useful, allowing you to reallocate the budget to the activities that add the most value.

Inspiring and Useful Challenges

The challenges in WellRight’s library range from collaboration and communication to environmental and financial. Focus on challenges align participants in taking control of their wellness with highly personalized long-term goals.

Environmental challenges are also useful because they help employees look at their personal environment to see how it’s getting in the way of their productivity, happiness and well-being. Being more intentional about those spaces helps create safe, relaxing havens for employees to go and unwind.

Less Nursing Burnout and Happier, Healthier Nurses

Addressing nursing burnout and any other type of burnout continues to be a top priority for health care and other organizations.

And it’s a priority that should continue long after we (finally) see the last of the pandemic. After all, even on a good day, the average nurse will deal with the kinds of stress that would leave many of us in tears.

A comprehensive wellness program that is easily managed and accessed is an important piece of an effective nursing burnout prevention strategy. At WellRight, our team of corporate wellness experts have the knowledge and expertise to help you create a supportive space for your employees to thrive. For help setting up a wellness program to combat employee burnout, contact us.

Addressing the Employee Mental Health Crisis: An Action Guide for Managers

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