How Can Nursing Home Staff Prevent Burnout?

Nursing is often a challenging and tremendously stressful job. The long hours and sleepless nights, demanding patients, unfavorable working environments‒all of these can make an already difficult job even more taxing. It isn’t surprising that employee turnaround rates at nursing homes are at an all-time high, with many facilities struggling to maintain a full workforce.

Apart from getting the proper nursing home insurance, preventing burnout is a top priority for nursing home administrators. The condition is often characterized by a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction, which may cause affected personnel to quit their jobs. If it is allowed to remain unaddressed, burnout could even lead to physical and mental issues.

Burnout among staff members could negatively affect the nursing home as well. Facilities in which personnel is constantly stressed and dissatisfied with their jobs typically have high absenteeism and turnaround rates. Some may find it nearly impossible to maintain a reliable working staff. These factors could affect the quality of service that a facility provides, which ultimately hurts its profitability.

What is burnout, and what are its characteristics?

Before we go into the ways to reduce burnout among nursing home staff, let’s examine what it is and the symptoms that characterize it.

Burnout affects people differently. Some may constantly feel tired or sleepy, often when they should be working. Others may exhibit more severe stress-related symptoms such as headaches or ulcers.

People who are burned out may feel anxious or depressed for no apparent reason. They may become discouraged or bored with their duties, and nursing home staff may experience a growing cynicism or reduced compassion for their patients.

Burnout is often directly related to specific actions or patterns of behavior. For example, affected individuals may miss work more often or frequently come in late. In addition, they may take extended sick leaves and be more likely to file worker’s compensation claims. All of these can negatively affect business operations and company finances.

Why does burnout occur?

Knowing why burnout occurs is an important step in implementing measures and policies to prevent it from happening. For many, the condition is caused by having to function in a constantly stressful or toxic work environment.

In a study conducted by Pines and Aronson in 1988, burnout was defined as a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion”. The study attributed this state to long-term exposure to an “emotionally demanding situation”.

Other studies sought to explain burnout as a reaction of people to their own expectations or mental states. For example, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger attributed the phenomenon to the individual’s role, citing the high incidence of burnout among those who devoted themselves to pursuits or ideals that did not produce the desired results.

Freudenberger stated that burnout is most likely among those who combined extreme dedication and commitment with the inability to set healthy work-life boundaries. For the psychologist, the desire to give more than is warranted often leads to burnout.

Freudenberger’s theory suggests that burnout commonly results from the inability to balance self-care with work-related commitments. Considering the passion that many nursing home personnel have and the demands of the job, this observation could very well be at the root of most burnout cases in nursing facilities.

Tips for keeping your nursing home staff from burning out

Nursing home administrators and staff have their own roles to play in managing and preventing burnout. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Enhancing training and orientation. Implementing enhanced training and orientation programs can help clarify issues related to job expectations and task prioritization. Nursing care facilities could also improve staff management and supervision, enhance staff relationships, and minimize stress and aggression in the workplace.
  2. Addressing scheduling issues. Management could implement policies for improving assignment scheduling and task distribution and possibly even give staff more control over these aspects. This could address problems that some staff members may have with unexpected schedule changes.
  3. Salary adjustments. Burnout and high turnover rates are often closely related to financial problems. Increasing salary levels to the industry standard could help reduce the frequency of employee burnout.
  4. Employee assistance and benefits. Employers could offer assistance programs that include counseling for employees dealing with stress outside of work. They may also provide health screening services that could help staff members better deal with health-related issues that may be impairing their ability to work efficiently.


Whether you own a nursing care facility or manage one, maintaining a high level of service is understandably one of your main priorities. Even so, you need to ensure your staff’s physical and mental well-being so that they can continue to perform their jobs at the required level.

Implementing measures to prevent burnout helps keep nursing home staff happy and fulfilled. It may also reduce absenteeism and minimize employee turnaround, which will benefit your facility in the long term.

About Midwest Insurance Group

Midwest Insurance Group is a risk retention group developed by Caitlin Morgan Insurance Services in response to the unique needs of the healthcare industry, particularly that of senior living facilities. With rising premium costs and difficulties in obtaining coverage from the traditional professional and general liability insurance market, Midwest Insurance Group represents a viable, long-term insurance alternative for the senior living sector, giving members complete control over costs and claims management. Midwest Insurance Group is reinsured with Lloyd’s of London, and A rated by Demotech.

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