By Neil Finkler, M.D., chief clinical officer, AdventHealth Central Florida Division
The health care industry is facing unique challenges as we navigate through the pandemic.
Not only are physicians reporting record-breaking levels of burnout, emotional exhaustion and occupational distress, but our nursing colleague are also experiencing similar symptoms.
According to a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, nurses’ emotional exhaustion has gotten increasingly worse during the pandemic. In fact, the nurses surveyed saw their emotional exhaustion increase from 40.6% in 2019 to 46.5% in 2020. During the second year of the pandemic and into 2022, it rose to 49.2%.
This issue of burnout among the nursing community is something I’m proud to say our AdventHealth medical staff passionately advocated for via our annual surveys.
Through direct and emphatic feedback in our annual survey process, we heard a resounding cry from our physicians, imploring us to take action to retain our high-quality nurses by focusing on improvements around compensation, work intensity, career growth and more.
Following this insight, AdventHealth announced a bold, first-of-its-kind commitment to team members and an investment of more than $571 million to enhance the overall employee experience.
For nurses specifically, AdventHealth took steps to better care for our nursing colleagues, who in turn care for our patients, including:
- Significantly reduced agency staffing
- Raised nursing salaries by thousands of dollars to be more competitive
- Offered financial bonus (through Dec. 31) for direct patient care nurses who commit to stay with the organization - over 90% of those eligible accepted this offer
- Provided up to $21,000 in tuition reimbursement for employees who pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing and financial assistance to help pay off existing student loans
- Opened a cutting-edge simulation lab designed to provide realistic training using interactive manikins that simulate a range of health conditions and scenarios
- Expanded the spiritual and well-being support for nurses, including personalized, on-demand mental health support 24/7
- Invested in a new research study, open to licensed direct care nurses, that explores psychological and emotional distress known as Moral Injury
- Developed a psychoeducational group intervention for nurses to help reduce burnout and promote well-being. A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted by AdventHealth Nursing and Whole-Person Research to examine the effects of this program and initial findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, showed improvements in resilience, self-compassion, perceived stress and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, a secondary analysis, recently published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, shows this program produced a 20% decline in nursing turnover, resulting in a $549,000 cost savings in retention.
- Added virtual nurses and expanded team models that include licensed practical nurses and patient care technicians to reduce a bedside nurse’s workload, increase patient safety and improve support for new nurses
My physician colleagues agree – the work AdventHealth and our nursing leadership are doing to strengthen the overall nursing experience is a step in the right direction.
“Nurses are the bedrock of our trusted patient care and that bedrock cracked during the pandemic of the unvaccinated, which has been a shock to the hospital system. Nurses are critical to our work as physicians because they are our eyes and ears at the bedside. Nurses hold the patients’ hand, they go over their treatment plan and communicate with the family and when patients are dying, nurses are often the last one to see them alive. Working so closely with our patients talks a toll on our nurses and focusing on nursing well-being is key to ensuring our team provides exemplary patient care.”
- Ademola Adewale, M.D., emergency medicine physician at AdventHealth East Orlando
“Supporting our nurses is very important to me for a multitude of reasons. They are the backbone of the health care industry and provide amazing complementary care to all our patients in every facet of medicine including hospital support, medical practices, research initiatives, and even care at home. I feel immense appreciation for our nurses and look forward to future collaborations as we conquer cancer through surgery, research, and novel anti-cancer drugs.”
- Nathalie D. McKenzie, M.D., gynecologic oncologist and OB/GYN section chair and fellowship program director at AdventHealth Central Florida Division – South Region
Supporting, stabilizing and enhancing our nursing team is truly a top priority as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. We know we’re only as strong as our team and by creating an improved experience for our nurses, our backbone of medicine, we pave the way for an even stronger commitment to clinical excellence.