Nurse Burnout: How Innovation Can Help Relieve Health Care Professionals’ Stress

Portrait of surgeons in bright surgery with doctor attending patient on background

Engaged nurses make for satisfied patients, but many nurses are experiencing burnout from the profession.                                                            

Carter Liebscher|
November 27, 2019

Earlier this month we questioned whether health care professionals are largely engaged or disengaged. While the answer wasn’t so clear-cut, one major takeaway was that disengaged health care professionals have dire effects on patient morality. In an industry like health care where literal lives depend upon engaged employees, hospitals and other organizations should put failsafes in place to ensure success and safety for both patients and employees.

While many hospitals do take measures to keep employees physically and mentally healthy, the sheer responsibility and stress of the field makes employee burnout one of health care’s most pressing issue. Of course, the nature of these professionals’ work contributes to these statistics, but many also feel that the industry normalizes burnout, with 62% of surveyed physicians feeling pessimistic about the future of the field.

Implementing an innovation program at your hospital can help reduce burnout among front-line health care professionals, particularly nurses. Hearing out their issues, prototyping ways to best solve them, and then testing those solutions can help ease the difficulties of the field and allow for both patient and professional success in health care.

Causes of Nurse Burnout

Poor work-life balance

Nursing often attracts passionate people, which can make for engaged but quickly exhausted nurses.They’re not only responsible for physical patient outcomes, but also their mental and emotional outcomes—a tremendous amount of responsibility that makes it difficult for nurses to balance their work from their personal lives.

Some nurses may prepare themselves before a shift, but medical emergencies, lack of clear communication, and sudden overtime due to absenteeism can leave them exhausted and overworked. The exhaustion can have a compounding effect, leaving nurses dissatisfied with not only their employer, but the profession as a whole.

Approximately 90% are considering leaving the current hospital they work at for one at another hospital. Eighty-three percent of those same nurses believe that hospitals are losing nurses to jobs with better work-life balance.

Self-care strategies can help with everyday stressors, but a position that is fundamentally imbalanced will cause people to flee.


As more nurses leave specific hospitals—or even the field as a whole—those remaining nurses are assigned more patients than they’re able to handle. 

Overcrowding contributes to nursing’s poor work-life balance. Nurses feel that they either have to split time between patients in order to care for their assigned patients, or they simply have to work longer hours. Neither of those solutions bode well for either the nurse or the patient: Nurses that are stretched thin are more likely to be disengaged and provide lackluster care, and longer work hour increase the likelihood of workplace accidents.

If the health care professionals are stressed, then that rubs off on patients. The ER will never be a beacon of calm, but it can be less stressful with a composed staff—and a greater number of staff members.

Technology-related stress

Even though hospitals should remain agile and invest in new tech, not every new piece of tech has positive effects on users.

One technology-related complaint among all health care professionals is that more time is spent on documenting patient info rather than interacting with patients directly. Electronic health records (EHRs), or electronic medical record (EMRs), are intended to make care professionals work more efficiently, pulling up patients’ medical records within a few clicks. However, EHR interfaces are often unintuitive, and going through the interface looking for a patient forces an employee to spend less time physically with the patient.

Dealing with electronic records can be a depersonalizing, time-consuming process, and one that often isn’t included in billable hours. In a survey from EHR Intelligence, approximately 70% of physicians using EHRs claimed that they cause them stress, and that they’re not reimbursed for the time they spent electronically documenting patient data.

Of course, advances in technology, including EHRs, are improving patient experiences, an outcome more consumers desire across industries . However, implementing the technology is only the first step—examining how to best utilize it to everyone’s advantage is vital. 

How Health Care Organizations Can Reduce Nurse Burnout

From mandated physical and mental evaluations to open communication between nurses and management, hospitals and other health care organizations have a lot of options to ensure nurses are engaged and satisfied.  

One option that some organizations perhaps haven’t considered is crowdsourcing. By hearing out health care professionals’ issues and their suggestions on how their organization can address them, you do employees and patients a service.

If your health care organization has recognized employee burnout as the significant issue it is, take a look at Ideawake’s innovation implementation roadmap. Our innovation experts will guide both your front-line employees and leaders to solve workplace shortcomings based on shared expertise.

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