Job Stress and Burnout among Intensive Care Unit Nursing Staff
In the last few centuries, we have witnessed major transformations in the health and nursing sector, especially regarding the scope of job and technological advances. The drastic change has not been without difficulties, the most notable of which is emotional stress. Such stress can compromise the safety of the patients and the health of the health care providers (Aiken et al., 2012). Stress can be defined as an internal or environmental event that an individual or social system can no longer adapt to. Stress comprises both psychic and organic changes that are of importance to the cognitive system. When confronted with stress, the human body automatically employs strategies in a bid to alleviate the damning effects of the situation. When these strategies fail, the result may be a burnout syndrome. This is basically the emotional exhaustion that comes as a result of physical exhaustion (Andolhe, Barbosa, Oliveira, Costa & Padilha, 2015).
A person experiencing burnout normally has little or no emotional strength. He seems not to value the other persons he may be living with. The person also loses general interest in life, and this leads to poor job performance. This is quite dangerous, to say the least. Burnout is especially common with health care providers because of the many hours they have to work, as they struggle to save humanity from illnesses. Failure to manage such work related stress is what leads to burnout. The most easily seen effects include absenteeism, high work turnover, poor interpersonal relationships, and decreased personal achievement and productivity (Tucker, Cutshall, Rhudy & Lohse, 2012).
All health care workers can experience burnout, but this again depends on the specialization of the worker. Those who work in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and the emergency department (ED) are the most vulnerable health care workers.
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Their job routine is normally hectic and stressful. Their work is characterized with poor working conditions, high death rates, critical patient care, and inadequate time to care for patients, among others. A typical nurse may report to work and work for up to sixteen hours with no break. Some surgical operations really take time and the nurses cannot dare take their eyes off the patient because of their delicate situation. When they get to a point they can no longer cope, high rate of absenteeism ensues, which greatly compromises the quality of care given to patients. For the over 50 years nursing has been recognized as a profession, it has been noted as a very stressful occupation. A remarkable number of investigations have been done on the stress situation in the nursing field, but there is still more to be done, considering factors such as regional differences impacting the health care system, and other peculiarities of nursing in relation to other professions (Bakker, Le Blanc & Schaufeli, 2005).
A burnt out nurse will be less effective at work and his commitment to the job or that particular organization will decrease. The nurse will constantly desire to leave the job for another one. This was confirmed by a recent french study, where about 60 % of nurses working in ICUs expressed their longing to leave the job. Most French nurses working in ICUs have exhibited symptoms of depression and low quality of private life, as measured by the Center for Epidemiologiccal Studies Scale for Depression. Shanafelt et al conducted a study on internal medicine residents and discovered how low quality patient care was related to depersonalization. He also noted rising levels of patient dissatisfaction as a result of the burnout syndrome. Personal conflicts among the colleagues were also recorded, with the resultant effect of interrupting job tasks (Maslach, Schaufeli.....
Andolhe, R., Barbosa, R., Oliveira, E., Costa, A., & Padilha, K. G. (2015). Stress, coping and burnout among Intensive Care Unit nursing staff: Associated factors. Journal of School of Nursing, 49, 57-63. Doi:10.1590/S0080-623420150000700009
Bakker, A.B Le Blanc, P.M., & Schaufeli, W.B. (2005). Burnout contagion among intensive care nurses. J Adv Nurs, 51(3), 276-287.
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B, & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annu Rev Psychol, 52, 397–422.
Tucker, S. J., Weymiller, A. J., Cutshall, S. M., Rhudy, L. M., & Lohse, C. M. (2012). Stress ratings and health promotion practices among RNs: A case for action. JONA, 42(5), 282-92.
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