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August 22, 2022

Charted: Why a third of NPs may leave health care—and what you can do

Daily Briefing

    According to Medscape's "Nurse Practitioner Burnout & Depression Report 2022," almost a third of NPs are considering leaving health care, particularly as more of them struggle with burnout and other work difficulties.

    Our take: 3 strategies to build baseline emotional support for your nursing staff

    NP burnout during the pandemic

    For the report, researchers surveyed 2,084 NPs in the United States between April 5 and May 20, 2022, to assess their experiences with burnout and depression.

    Overall, more than 60% of NPs reported feeling burned out, with 30% saying that they were both burned out and depressed. A majority of NPs (62%) also report experiencing burnout for at least a year, with 20% saying they have experienced burnout for more than two years now.

    When asked about what contributes to their burnout, many NPs reported too many bureaucratic tasks (49%), insufficient compensation (43%), and lack of respect from their employees, colleagues, and other staff (43%). Other factors that contributed to burnout include too many work hours, lack of respect from patients, and stress from Covid-19 issues, such as social distancing.

    In addition, 66% of NPs reported that burnout contributed to their depression. Other contributing factors for NP depression include being a health care professional, the Covid-19 pandemic, family issues, and finances.

    "I think the pandemic, like other issues, not only magnified but intensified its grip on an already overworked and stressed-out nursing workforce," said Danielle McCamey, founder and CEO of DNPs of Color and an assistant professor and assistant dean for clinical practice and relationships at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

    Because of the pandemic, "the demands for providers at the bedside does not allow for adequate recovery and healing, which contributes to this vicious cycle of burnout that is totally unsustainable and really and truly inhumane," she said.

    Overall, 31% of respondents said they were considering leaving the health care profession.

    According to April Kapu, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the organization has been "seeing increasing numbers of clinicians — especially nurses and NPs — leaving the profession, particularly if there are no options for improvement of workplace environment, mental health support, or opportunities to make changes within their career."

    McCamey expressed similar sentiments. "It is documented that NPs are reconsidering their priorities and commitment in whether they will continue in advance practice or seek other opportunities outside of the nursing profession altogether," she said.

    How to reduce NP burnout

    In the report, NPs described specific efforts they made to reduce burnout at work, including using meditation and other stress reduction techniques, reducing their work hours, and requesting staffing changes to ease their workload. Notably, 25% of NPs said they changed work settings or got a different job to reduce burnout.

    In addition, NPs also listed several organizational changes that could help reduce their feelings of burnout. Of the NPs surveyed, 50% said increased compensation to avoid financial stress said would help reduce their feelings of burnout, and 40% said greater respect from their employers, colleagues, and other staff would help.

    According to one respondent, "[g]reater respect for the job I do by the general public and health system" would help reduce burnout since "[a] physician can go anywhere, but if I change places or roles, I start all over at the bottom again."

    "Throughout the pandemic, nurses, including NPs, have experienced sustained physical exhaustion, prolonged pathogen exposure, emotional turmoil and grief in losing patients, family and friends to COVID-19," Kapu said. "Working in crisis mode for months on end, now years, it has been really tough." (Robbins, Medscape, 8/17; Carbajal, Becker's Hospital Review, 8/18)

    Three strategies to build baseline emotional support for your frontline staff

    Breaking down health care's "I'm fine" culture

    workforce emotional supportIn the wake of Covid-19, health care organizations must commit to providing targeted baseline emotional support for the three types of emotionally charged scenarios that health care employees are likely to encounter in their careers: trauma and grief, moral distress, and compassion fatigue.

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