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Dangerous Professional Burnout Extends to Nurses

Earlier this month, we discussed the fact that high rates of burnout among physicians are likely compromising the quality of patient care in numerous situations. Unfortunately, several occupational realities are also contributing to high rates of burnout among nurses.

Though physicians are often ultimately responsible for determining a patient's course of treatment, nurses are most frequently entrusted with ensuring that the needs of the patient are met from moment to moment. The same kinds of negligent behavior that can lead to medical malpractice suits for burned out physicians are being exhibited by burned out nurses.

A recent study put forth by the University of Pennsylvania indicates that burnout among the nursing profession, inspired primarily by occupational factors which can be improved upon by proactive healthcare organizations and facilities, is affecting patient safety.

Some factors cited by the study which increase nursing profession burnout rates include a lack of independence, lack of support at higher administrative levels and an atmosphere marked by dysfunctional team dynamics.

It is in this sense that the work environment of healthcare providers at all levels affects patient safety. Absent a positive and supportive work environment, physicians, nurses, aides and other support staff are likely to become overwhelmed, and ultimately less engaged in their jobs.

When those jobs are primarily focused on the care of ill human beings, the results can be catastrophic. It is thus imperative that the healthcare community place greater emphasis on reducing the level of burnout among medical professionals both for their own sake and for the sake of the patients they care for.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Penn study examines link between nurse burnout, care," Don Sapatkin, July 31, 2012

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