USA Health University Hospital participating in pilot program to prevent nurse burnout

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 11:19 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - USA Health University Hospital is among four in the nation -- participating in a pilot program to fight and prevent “nurse burnout.”

Nursing has always been stressful -- and nurses at University Hospital will tell you the pandemic only added to the demand and a higher rate of burnout.

“Families were isolated from their loved ones who were actually in some instances dying at end of life and the nurse was the constant - the nurse was there through it all. And they continue to be and we have to invest in supporting their mental well-being -- know that we care,” said Kristen Noles, Performance Improvement Manager USA Health.

The three-year pilot program is being paid for through a grant by the American Nurses Association for “Stress First Aid.”

“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl,” said Taylor Williams, RN USA Health.

First developed for the U.S. Navy -- Stress First Aid -- is helping ICU nurses like Taylor Williams communicate their level of stress -- on a scale of green to red. Green being good and red being burnout.

“Because a lot of times ICU nurses ICU nurses will just be like no we’re good. But now you can kind of say like what color are you in and we can say green, yellow, orange and we’ll know what their stress level is at that moment -- instead of saying do you need anything -- we will stop them and say what can we do to relieve that level of stress,” explained Williams.

It’s also helping managers recognize the signs and step in to offer support.

“I think it’s going to help nurses feel more confident that it’s okay to say I’m not okay today -- recognizing that it’s okay to say that. With nursing -- so much of nursing is you’re expected to be here to take care of your patient and the families and you don’t always get to say -- you know I’m not okay -- today -- I need someone to take care of me,” said Sarah Gates, Nurse Manager 9th Floor USA Health.

Part of what they’re implementing at University Hospital is a “decompression room” -- a safe place for the nurses to take a break and regroup. There they will be able to listen to music, sit in silence, sit in a massage chair, along with other stress-relief activities. It’s self-care for caregivers.

“To see it in action... It really brought tears to my eyes to see how in a stressful event -- they all came together and took care of each other. Whether it be a shoulder -- hand on a shoulder, just a presence -- that you’re not alone or a senior manager coming in and saying okay we’ve got this -- really coaching and mentoring the newer staff -- that’s how we should deliver care. And it was beautiful,” said Noles.

Other health systems in the program include BayCare Health in Tampa Bay, Florida; Indiana University Health in locations throughout Indiana; and Atrium Health Wake Forest, Winston-Salem campuses in North Carolina.