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Editorial

Senior nurses are just as prone to workplace strains and stresses

Research states that one in three nurse managers are experiencing burnout, so it is vital we recognise how staff shortages and the pandemic affect senior nurses

One in three nurse managers are experiencing burnout, so it is vital we recognise how staff shortages and the pandemic affect senior nurses
Picture: iStock

Nurse managers are strong, resilient, unbreakable, and good at recognising when they need down time and ‘me’ time, correct?

Not so, according to Spanish research published in 2020, which revealed that one in three nurse managers were experiencing burnout and felt under too much strain to work.

And that was before a pandemic has heaped additional pressures on to an already stretched workforce.

In my role as editor of two journals, Nursing Management and Emergency Nurse, I have recently become aware of nurse leaders and managers who have been struggling, and have been signed off work with depression, compassion fatigue and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

I was shocked they had been affected: these nurses are strong, resilient role models. They ploughed on through the pandemic with commitment and passion .

Compassion fatigue raised at RCN congress

But COVID-19 has taken its toll and we all need to be mindful of this, particularly nurse managers. They must carry the burden of staff shortages, changing policies, and responsibility for safety and quality of care, while at the same time trying to support and protect their own staff.

There is, thankfully, greater awareness of these issues, and burnout and compassion fatigue in nurse managers was a matter raised for debate at RCN congress in Glasgow in June.

In addition, more nurse managers are speaking out about their experiences, in the hope of removing the stigma associated with being open about vulnerability.

Many leaders worry that admitting they are having a tough time may affect their credibility and have a negative impact on their staff, but experts say acknowledging you need help and seeking support early are important in recovery.

Our news analysis, Burnout in nursing: compassion fatigue affects managers too, examines compassion fatigue. It highlights the signs to watch out for and where you can go for help if you think you might be experiencing symptoms.

Our free well-being centre also has advice and tips on how to care for yourself during these challenging times.

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