Management of work stress and burnout among community nurses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased workload demands for many NHS staff including those working in the community. Nurse managers can make a difference by being authentic leaders, nurturing a supportive organisation where the workload is managed participatively and self-kindness is legitimate. Unfortunately some staff may experience burnout and this article presents a personal management plan to address the symptoms of burnout and aid recovery, although it cannot promote a total recovery if the cause of the symptoms remains unaddressed.
There is much concern about work-related stress especially among NHS staff as a consequence of the heightened workload demands of the COVID-19 pandemic (UK Parliament, 2020). While there has been a focus on frontline hospital staff, community staff, including community nurses, have had to adapt their ways of working to reduce face-to-face contact, which has included greater use of technology to assess and support clients remotely, as well as managing increased workloads (Green, 2020). Additionally, some community nurses have had sole responsibility for some of those shielding, with other sources of contact having ceased with the first lockdown. This is on top of the existing gap between capacity and demand in district nursing (DN) services due to increasing patient numbers, patient acuity and the complexity of care, and the lack of a comparable increase in the workforce.
Green (2021) reported the findings of a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) District Nursing Forum survey conducted in November 2020, which revealed that DN services continue to provide care when other services are at capacity—that is, they are a safety net but without limits to their capacity. Unsurprisingly, the survey respondents described how their services had been under intense pressure, which meant that they had regularly postponed planned care to another day or referred to another service to manage lack of capacity. Only 1% of survey respondents reported being able to leave work on time every day, and 70% reported that they were unable to have a lunch break every day, highlighting the need for greater investment in DN provision. This gap between demand and capacity in DN has a negative impact on staff wellbeing (Maybin et al, 2016).
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