The current healthcare environment is multifaceted and ever-changing, which can lead to an overwhelmed, exhausted, and vulnerable nursing workforce. A core component of nursing involves caring for vulnerable populations. In today’s tumultuous healthcare environment, nurses have become a vulnerable population as they face more complex work environments with reduced resources. The majority of nurses report they have experienced feelings of burnout, which is a threat to healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency. Nurse burnout harms patients, health systems, and the profession of nursing. However, it is encouraging that effective approaches to reduce burnout have been recognized and there is hope.
Several leadership strategies have demonstrated success with burnout mitigation. Nurse leaders must understand burnout and the impact it has on the nursing workforce. They must also recognize and adopt leader behaviors that have proven effective in burnout reduction and enhancement of nurse well-being. The research focused on nurse leadership and nurse burnout continues to be published and further exploration is warranted.
Healthy work environments and caring relationships repeatedly correlated with lower levels of burnout. Clear communication, therapeutic listening skills, and intentional leader presence allow nurses to feel valued and heard and are key elements to the development of strong work environments. Recent research specifically addressed the need for compassionate behaviors and education for nurse leaders. Effective leadership is imperative to the delivery of high-quality, compassionate health care and conversely, the absence of compassionate leadership negatively impacts quality and outcomes.
Research has also identified the importance of leadership encouragement of nursing professional development and employee recognition. Authentic and transformational leadership styles demonstrated effectiveness in alleviation of burnout and improved well-being. Given the impact nurse leader behaviors can have on nurse burnout, the consensus is that healthcare organizations should value nurse leaders and ensure that training on effective leadership strategies is offered. Organizations that emphasize the importance of well-being, embed education into onboarding processes, and monitor its effectiveness as the nurses continue in the organization.
Furthermore, individual nurse leaders should seek opportunities to develop heightened self-awareness and engage in leadership development that will better equip them to care for nurses. It is important to note that nurse leaders are not immune to the experience of burnout. When equipped with the proper tools, nurse leaders have the ability to enhance well-being for not only nursing colleagues, but also for themselves. Healthcare organizations and nurse leaders can partner together to create an optimistic future for nursing by empowering nurse leaders to adopt behaviors that foster well-being and retain nurses.