Skilled Nursing: How to Avoid Burnout
Nursing is one of the most demanding jobs around, and sometimes the job can feel thankless as well. We asked our Michigan and Ohio skilled nursing facility heads of nursing how they personally avoid burnout on the job and how they encourage staff to stay focused and motivated.
Rachel Gilbert, director of nursing at SKLD Ionia, offers her nuggets of wisdom after years of working in the field.
How to avoid on the job burnout in nursing
I encourage staff to communicate their needs from the start in order to avoid burnout. I see that this is true for myself as well and especially true for my staff. I encourage staff members to come talk, and I make sure I talk out my needs as well.
- Do you need to change units for a few days?
- Do you have PTO time and need a couple days off?
- Can management provide you with an extra hand on the unit to help alleviate the workload or take a bit of stress off your day?
So often a little bit of extra support from management helps a lot on the unit.
Finally, I try to determine if the staff member I’m working with has the tools to deal with work stress. If not, I work closely with him or her to come up with some. Sometimes taking a short break, doing some calming exercises or just coming into the DON office to vent are helpful.
How to keep your staff motivated on the job
Positive affirmation and being willing as managers to come alongside team members to help on the unit goes a long way in keeping nursing staff motivated. Also, recognition for a job well done helps not only with motivation, but staff retention. Some of the ways we do this in Ionia is through written notes, small gifts and acknowledgement in all-staff meetings.
But overall, I think what motivates our staff the most is when we receive positive feedback from families or residents. As managers we try to share it forward. For most of our staff their hearts are in patient care, so the positive words from our residents and families is priceless. If we receive a thank you card or letter, we share it in our meetings. Our staff really seem to appreciate the kind words from the people they care for.
How to personally stay motivated on the job
What motivates me on the job is the desire to do the very best I can for our residents, families and staff. I do not want to fail them. It is a great responsibility being a director of nursing, and it is important to me to do my very best every day. I genuinely care for our residents and staff, and it is important to me that I am doing whatever I can to honor them and advocate for them while I am blessed to be in this role.
How to avoid taking work stress home
I have a long drive every day, so it is easy for me to destress on my car ride home. Most days this works, but as a DON I am on-call 24 hours a day and there are times that work stress follows me home. For me, I try and separate the stress quickly. Basically, I might take a call that is stressful, but when I hang up the phone it has to end there because my kids and significant other deserve to have my time and attention without the worry. I am pretty good at handling stress, so I feel fortunate in this way. I will deep breathe, count to 10, listen to music I enjoy, sing, take a bath, talk it out with the administrator of our building. There are a lot of ways to relieve stress.
How nursing leadership can promote teamwork
In this industry if you can’t work as a team, it is almost a guaranteed failure. We work in facilities where you have to operate as a team. Still this is an ongoing challenge. Some of the ways we promote teamwork in our building are through cross-training staff members, recognizing staff members who step up to help out their co-workers and being willing to demonstrate by our own actions that we are working together. As a DON this is tough sometimes, because it feels like there is double the work that needs to get complete each day, but we still have to take the time.
Just this morning I assisted a cena with a patient care, delivered meal trays to a couple residents and changed out a trash bag in a resident’s room—to me these are small things, but the cena and housekeeper were thankful for those simple moments of my time.
In teamwork we must also be understanding of one another. I cannot always be on the unit, just as our staff cannot come in to complete my audits or reports and develop the next round of staff educations. Ultimately the biggest part of teamwork is respecting the members on the team and coming alongside each other to help when we can.
Interested in working in one of our team-oriented facilities? Check out our job openings here.