CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) – Drew Williams admits he’s tired. Like many in his chosen field of nursing, the RN who works nights caring for intensive care patients at SIH Herrin Hospital, Williams has worked a lot of hours during the past 15 months and he has seen a lot of suffering. He’s not alone. All across Southern Illinois and the U.S., nurses have carried an enormous burden and they are tired ‘” physically, mentally and emotionally ‘” leading to widespread ‘œnurse burnout.’� Researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale set out to study nursing burnout more than a year ago and what they discovered not only showed nurse burnout to be significant even before COVID-19, but even more relevant since the beginning of the pandemic. The interdisciplinary study, called ‘œEmotional Exhaustion as a Predictor for Burnout among Nurses,’� looked at what causes burnout and offered suggestions to prevent it. Kelli Whittington, who led the research team and is director of SIU’s nursing program, said the study showed several factors contribute to the burnout. ‘œFirst, there’s a really strong relationship between workload and emotional exhaustion,’� she explained. ‘œIt’s not that nurses don’t handle a heavy workload, it’s how they are able to handle it and feel as though they can manage their time, interact with each other, how they can take a break and that the workload is equitably distributed. It’s about having the flexibility to handle that workload in the way that they feel is best.’� Additionally, she said nurses can become emotionally exhausted when they don’t have a sense of control and that nurses need a sense of community within the workplace. She said emotional exhaustion may not be apparent within the nursing unit, but can manifest itself in a variety of ways. ‘œThere are emotional aspects, such as not wanting to do anything with our friends and family. We just want to go home, stay home and not interact with people and our tempers become short. We also can see it with things like depression or stomach aches,’� she explained. Williams said it is the very nature of nursing ‘” the call to care for others ‘” that makes the job challenging, especially when patients suffer or pass. ‘œIn this job you take things personally,’� Williams said. ‘œWe get to know these patients and their families and we make connections. It can be really difficult.’� Steve Marlow, administrator of The Voyage, an assisted living facility in Murphysboro, said more has been asked of nurses during the pandemic. ‘œWith all of the extra hours, all of the extra precautions in all environments, it’s really been a strain on the nursing staffs,’� he said. ‘œBurnout is the real deal.’� Like many colleagues, Marlow said his organization is working to combat or prevent emotional exhaustion in nurses. ‘œWe try to make sure that they get an appropriate amount of time off ‘” at least two days in a row, maybe three,’� he said. ‘œWe also try to make sure to make sure our facility is somewhere they want to be.’� He said leaders also must show compassion ‘” such as assisting nurses with duties and picking up nursing or housekeeping rounds themselves. ‘œRolling up their sleeves and showing that they care,’� he called it. The SIU study used the widely accepted Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) to measure the prevalence of burnout among nurses across the nation. An MBI score of 27 indicates burnout. Nearly half of the study participants reported a total score of 27 or higher. Whittington said length of nursing career, ages and area of nursing did not seem to impact the level of burnout. ‘œWe saw it all over the place, which tells me that if nurses are working as nurses, they are experiencing emotional exhaustion,’� she said.
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