What is burnout?
Burnout occurs when an individual suffers from emotional exhaustion and begins to find coping with everyday life difficult. Sufferers can become detached from the world around them, usually due to being placed within an extremely stressful situation for a prolonged period of time. Typical symptoms of burnout include extreme mental fatigue, depersonalisation (a feeling of being removed from reality) and experiencing a lack of personal accomplishment. Burnout can be an incredibly debilitating syndrome which is extremely detrimental to the sufferer, invading both their personal and working life and significantly reducing their ability to cope.
Prevalence of burnout in nurses
It is commonly accepted that the modern-day nursing profession is one which involves immense levels of stress and a tremendous workload. This is leading to increasingly high levels of nurses experiencing severe burnout. A recent study conducted on 676 nurses in Andalusia, Spain, discovered that many of the participants were suffering from some degree of burnout, ranging from average to high levels. Most were finding their resiliency greatly reduced, which in turn was making them far less effective in their day to day role.
Factors which affected the levels of burnout depended on the participant’s individual circumstances: their age, gender, marital status and family circumstances, as well as their typical shift pattern, the area in which they worked and their personality. Those nurses suffering from burnout reported a variety of consequences, including becoming neurotic, being unable to relate to their patients effectively and feeling increasingly anxious, lonely, guilty or depressed.
Personalities more prone to suffering from burnout were participants who were extroverts, as well as those nurses who were extremely agreeable and therefore likely to take on more work than they were capable of managing. Others who were more vulnerable included those with young families, older nurses and those working busier shifts or night shifts, where they were under immense amounts of stress or particularly isolated in their working role.
New research on benefits of Yoga to prevent burnout
To ensure that health services remain effective, reducing the levels of burnout in nurses has become a real priority. One method, called the Healing Pathways program (University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore), focused on increasing mindfulness in the nursing profession and putting more emphasis on nurses improving their own levels of self-care.
The Healing Pathways program looked at implementing an integrative coping and resiliency plan and studied the results on nurses of differing ages and years of experience. The nurses in the study took part in an eight week program which involved a range of weekly sessions including yoga, reiki and meditation. The study asked participants to complete a range of scales focused on measuring their coping, stress and anxiety levels before, at the end and a month after the study was completed.
The Healing Pathways program discovered that nurses engaging in these practices regularly had decreased levels of stress and coped better with their day to day jobs. They also experienced fewer symptoms of depersonalisation than the nurses in the study who were not. The study demonstrates that healthcare services providing nursing staff with the opportunity to participate regularly in sessions such as yoga and mindfulness will benefit from nurses with decreased levels of stress and emotional exhaustion. Integrating such practices into healthcare provision will ensure that nursing staff are far more able to complete their job effectively and therefore significantly reduce the rate of burnout in vital health services.