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Burnout in nursing

A report by the Society of Occupational Medcine

In 2019 the RCN Foundation funded a study by the Society for Occupational Medicine (SOM) entitled The Mental Health and Wellbeing of Nurses and Midwifes in the UK: Prevalence, Risk Factors, Implications and Interventions.

The report found that that challenging work conditions lead to widespread mental health problems and burnout among nurses and midwives.

Conducted before the pandemic, the study found that poor working conditions – such as high work demands, poor leadership, lack of resourcing and workplace bullying – not only threaten the health of nurses and midwives, but also impact on their ability to deliver high quality care to patients.

To avert a mental health crisis among staff, the report recommended a total of 45 recommendations categorised under action required at an organisational level, at a policy level and finally further research. Key findings were that:

  • more healthy working environments are needed for nurses and midwives

  • the stigma of disclosing mental health problems should be reduced

  • managers and leaders need training to identify and alleviate stress in staff.

The report also recommended that phased approaches to return to work should be available to nurses and midwives who are struggling with their mental wellbeing.

Staff should be able to self-refer to services, or for occupational health support, rather than go through their managers. It is particularly important for managers to provide the time for staff to access support systems and participate in interventions and training.

Finally, nurses and midwives should be required to take their full entitlement to breaks and always have access to appropriate food and drink and bathroom facilities.

The report was published in July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report’s authors concluded that the rates of poor mental health and burnout among nurses and midwives were likely to be increased by the strain on national health services.

Read the summary and full report on the SOM website.