SIU professors conduct study on nursing burnout in the workplace

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - It’s been a tiring, stressful 18 months for nurses across the country and in the Heartland.

Now, southern Illinois researchers are focused on what causes burnout in the nursing profession, and how to avoid it.

“There’s not enough you can do to make things better and so you just basically do your best,” said Pickneyville Community Hospital RN Brande Alvis.

Burnout in the nursing profession is real, just ask Alvis.

“You feel like you’re treading water.”

Alvis’ colleague Diedra Restroff has worked at Pinckneyville Community Hospital for 25 years.

“I think we’ve always known that nurse burnout is a thing, but this last year has just added an extra element of stress on top of everything,” said Restroff.

Added stress, emotional exhaustion and lack of control are just some of the issues researchers at SIU uncovered in a year-long study focused on nursing and burnout.

SIU Nursing Program Director Kelli D. Whittington said their work began as the pandemic took shape.

“It really played into how that changes nurses’ workload, how that really changed their sense of control over what they were doing to be doing on a day-to-day basis and then that sense of community because people were working in a different environment,” Whittington explained.

So how can nurses handle that stress? The men and women who joined in the survey offered several solutions including taking breaks, making sure their workload is balanced and keeping work life and home life separate.

The survey results also point to what health care facilities can do.

“We really want to put a big focus on, on that need for organizations, healthcare organizations to really focus on employee health and wellness,” said Sandra Collins, professor and program director of Healthcare Management.

Collins also plans to implement this study into her classroom.

Back in Pinckneyville, Alvis offers some advice to future nurses.

“If they remember what they got in health care for, then it’ll make their job easier,” she said. “We all got into it because we wanted to help people and you’re really helping people and some days it’s the worst day of their life and some days it’s the best of their life.”

Researchers said the study on workplace burnout will continue in the fall and will expand to include more than just the nursing profession.

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