Burnout impacts approximately 38% of nurses each year. Burnout isn’t a small issue, either. It can lead to a lack of empathy, a sense of dread as they head into work, and extra stress that could impact their physical and mental well-being.
Countless factors contribute to nurse burnout, from a busy schedule to difficult patients and demanding daily tasks. But technology has quickly been added to that list in recent years. It’s growing rapidly in the healthcare industry, and while it offers efficiency and innovation, it can also contribute to increased stress and fatigue among nursing professionals.
Technology isn’t going anywhere. The last thing you want to do as a nurse is let the stressful side of tech keep you from effectively utilizing it for its benefits. So, what can you do to strike a balance? How can you leverage technology to alleviate burnout rather than exacerbate it?
Understanding Emerging Technologies
Advancing technologies in the healthcare industry are designed to help professionals and patients alike. They are supposed to make your job easier, but that can only happen when you take the time to stay ahead of the latest advancements. With that in mind, some of the most popular emerging innovations in healthcare technology include:
- Artificial intelligence
- Healthcare wearables
These advancements can make treating and monitoring patients easier without necessarily having them come into your practice. You can connect with them digitally, monitor their progress through cloud-based services, and offer support without necessarily scheduling appointments.
That can take a lot of stress off of you and your patients. But it can also take things too far in the other direction. Telehealth is excellent for patients who have questions but can be abused. You might feel like you’re glued to a computer or tablet all day just trying to keep up with questions or requests. The same goes for wearable technology. Patients might have tech issues with their devices or wonder what specific data means. When you have to play the role of IT guru, it adds extra stress.
Virtual connected care is a great way to stay close to your patients and to provide greater one-on-one care. But don’t let it tie you down to technology so much that it causes you to feel overwhelmed by your other daily duties.
The Challenges of New Technology
Many healthcare facilities nationwide still rely on legacy technology — tech that utilizes outdated and antiquated hardware and software systems. But, because healthcare technology is advancing so quickly, practices are starting to understand the importance of switching to newer systems.
Unfortunately, when you’re used to working with a specific type of technology, changing to new technology can cause a lot of stress and confusion. You’ll have to get trained on new systems, learn about security and compliance, and might experience disturbances in workflow as everyone gets used to the new programs in place. Your practice can help to stop those disturbances and reduce stress by:
- Creating a schedule that allows you to work with new systems before they go live;
- Relying on experts for installation;
- Providing open communication about upcoming changes;
- Setting aside time for proper training.
New technology is beneficial in many ways. It can keep things organized, improve workflow (once everyone understands it), and provide better connections for each staff member and every patient. But keeping up with it isn’t always easy. Express your needs, take the time to train, and ensure you aren’t entirely relying on these new tech types to get the job done. There’s still something to be said for pen and paper!
With technology in the picture or not, one of the best things you can do to prevent burnout and manage your stress is to take care of yourself. You spend countless hours each week caring for others, but it’s easy to forget about prioritizing your well-being.
Self-care isn’t selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup and adequately care for patients when you’re exhausted, stressed, or even resentful of your job.
You can utilize technology to practice self-care each day. The same wearable health devices you recommend to patients can help you monitor your heart rate, track your sleep, and record your physical activity. You can also use technology to set daily reminders to take breaks. Sometimes, you might even need to remind yourself to eat a snack or break for lunch so you don’t feel sluggish and cranky by the end of your shift.
Nurse burnout is very real and a factor in the nationwide nursing shortage. Technology can help with that shortage and can help to reduce burnout, but only when it’s utilized the right way. Find a personal balance and a balance within your practice to take advantage of healthcare tech without letting it completely take over your job description.