Posted by John Ager on 24 August 2012.
Ever feel burned out by work? At some point we all have. When that happens, we don’t work as efficiently or effectively. We make mistakes. So, it should come as no surprise that recent research shows that the patients of burned out nurses have higher infection rates than others. Two studies have now demonstrated that the more patients nurses are required to care for, the more stressed out they become and the more infections per 1,000 patients occur. No surprise there either. Malpractice? Maybe. Unacceptable? Definitely.
Hospital related infections are often responsible for serious illness and death in the patients who contract them. Small infections can become big infections, and even small infections can have serious consequences for certain patient populations, like immunocompromised cancer victims. Not only is that bad for the patient, its expensive.
Even more alarming is that more than 1/3 of nurses report a high level of job-related burnout as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory, an authoritative scale which measures factors like emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction. Nurses are a critical component of our heath care system, and they need to be mentally alert and engaged to provide good care. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, both on the individual level and systemically. Reduced work loads are one way, but at what cost? It’s a complicated problem that won’t be solved overnight, but awareness is certainly the first step in the process.