Study: Burned out nurses lead to more infections - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Nurse burnout leads to more infections

A new study found that nurses dealing with burnout from their jobs are more likely to make mistakes that affect the health of their patients, and it's causing some nurses to make changes.

Patricia Bohannan, Director of the Coastal Carolina University Nursing program, says burnout is a regular occurrence with nurses with too many patients, and not enough rest.

"[They] complain that they're doing the same thing everyday...they can't get their work done; they don't get enough sleep; they're tired," Bohannan explains. "If you're on a floor where you have six to seven patients, and they're all very sick, it's really hard to keep up with them."

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found for every patient added to a nurse's workload, they should expect to see one additional hospital acquired infection per every 1,000 patients.

The study, published recently in the American Journal of Infection Control, found that when just one extra patient was added to the nurse's average workload, it led to more than 1,300 additional infections in the hospital population they studied.

Officials at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center say they constantly review infection rates and employee satisfaction in an effort to keep the mistakes at a minimum.  But Bohannan says the high stress of the job also has some long time nurses reevaluating their careers.

"They're physically not capable of keeping up with the demand that the hospitals are giving," admits Bohannan. "The physical demand is such that they're looking for what they can do that's less physically demanding."

The stress and physically demanding nature of the job, combined with burnout, is why Bohannan says a growing number of nurses are getting additional nursing education, such as a Bachelors or a Masters degree to improve their situation and combat the burnout.

"They want to be more in charge and do more things to provide health care," Bohannan says. "[They want to] have some say about what happens."

Bohannan says many of the nurses she sees back in school at the Coastal Carolina University Nursing program have 10 years of experience or more, and are now looking to find work in a private practice with more pay and less stress.

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