Press Ganey: Nurse burnout varies by generation, shift

Female nurse looking stressed
Nurse burnout responses should be more individualized, according to a new report. (Getty/gpointstudio)

As health organizations grapple with widespread burnout among providers, a new report from Press Ganey suggests healthcare leaders looking to tackle the problem among nurses would do well to more strongly consider factors like the generation and roles those nurses occupy.

Case in point: As Press Ganey looked at resiliency across nurses from different ages and roles, it found that nurses who are millennials struggle most when it comes to “activation,” or the ability to find joy and value in their work. 

At the same time, nurse managers have the hardest time decompressing after leaving the hospital. A balance in both areas, according to the report, is crucial to avoiding burnout.

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The lesson is that understanding and documenting the differences in experience is key to supporting frontline nurses in managing stress, said Christy Dempsey, chief nursing officer at Press Ganey. 

“I think that’s really important for leaders to recognize: that what we value and what we think is important is different,” Dempsey told FierceHealthcare. “We truly have a multigenerational nursing workforce, maybe more so than ever before.” 

Press Ganey’s report includes responses from more than 17,400 nurses at 145 hospitals to its 2017 Employee Engagement Survey, and responses from more than 161,000 nurses to its National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators. 

RELATED: As burnout spreads, healthcare organizations scramble for answers 

In addition to supporting staffers’ mental health, looking at these two dimensions of stress can also act as a predictor for which nurses are more likely to stay on staff long-term, according to the report. Nurses with low levels of activation and decompression are far more likely to want to leave their jobs and are likely the ones already looking for a way out, Press Ganey found. Healthcare’s workforce broadly is very mobile and open to moving around, Dempsey said, so it’s in a provider’s best interest to ensure their nurses find meaning in the work they do. 

“We have to identify those things that will help people want to stay in the organization,” Dempsey said. “The data very clearly shows that it’s about activation and making sure people are activated. 

“They feel like they make a difference, they feel like they make a meaningful contribution. Those are the things that drive activation,” she said. 

RELATED: Hospital Impact—Nurse leadership’s role in reducing burnout 

Nurses who may struggle with burnout but remain on staff can also cause problems. Dempsey said that a disengaged nurse represents $22,000 in lost productivity a year on average, and that attitude can infect other team members. 

Many of the tried-and-true strategies to ease stress and make nurses feel proud of their work are still useful, according to the report, they just have to be customized to account for the different generational perspectives. 

For example, recognizing a nurse for exemplary work is a great strategy to make them feel valued, but leaders need to reward them for something they care about, Dempsey said. 

“It’s not good to give someone a reward or recognize them for something they don’t value,” she said. 

In addition, better training and opening avenues for leadership development can help make nurses feel more invested in their work, according to the report.