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May 21, 2017

Rasmussen College: Preventing Burnout and Preparing Future Nurses

By Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Why do nurses burn out and leave the profession, often before they've truly fully launched their careers? 

During a recent conversation with Kelly McCullough, DNP, ARNP, the Regional Dean of Nursing at Rasmussen College, we discussed nurses, burnout, nurse success, and how to keep nurses from leaving the profession. 

Doctor McCullough has a community health background, and has been very focused on wellness throughout her nursing career. She has worked at Rasmussen College for seven years, and expresses great joy in preparing the next generation of nurses for the workforce. 

When discussing the school's mission, McCullough was very clear in communicating that the school focuses on fully preparing their students for the realistic challenges of the 21st-century healthcare workplace. The goal is for graduates to thrive as nurses while avoiding burnout and a premature exit from the profession.

Attitude and Success

"90% of our grads go directly into the workforce," McCullough stated. "We have significant concerns that our nurses won't persist in the field, and we want them to not just persist but to thrive."

"We promote lifelong learning. Certification, continued formal education, advanced degrees – this is all very important for success and longevity in the profession.

"We want our grads to be successul in the field as RNs or LPNs, and we need to give them the knowledge, skills, and mindset that they need to do so."

At Rasmussen, attitude is everything, and staff go out of their way to model positive attitudes that drive succcess. 

“Attitude makes it or breaks it for nurses and nursing students," McCullough stated. "It's one of the keys to preventing burnout."

The Six Domains

Rasmussen's support of new nurses entering and thriving in the profession is based on the six domains identified by the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) Initiative. Those six domains are: 

  • Patient-centered care

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Evidence-based practice

  • Quality improvement

  • Safety

  • Informatics

When new nurses enter the profession with a thorough grounding in these six domains, Rasmussen faculty recognize that their ability to withstand the challenges of the healthcare industry is increased, especially when they apply a positive and success-oriented attitude.

"QSEN is a phenomenal project created to prepare nurses with the knowledge, skills, and mindset they need upon entering the profession," McCullough stated. "Evidence-based practice is at the heart of high-quality nursing, and this grounding helps nurses feel prepared for anything."

The Reality of Nurse Burnout

According to Dean McCullough, burnout is an enormous problem in nursing.

"We know that there’s a high risk of burnout in nursing," she shared. "One in five newly licensed nurses leaves the profession -- that's unacceptable."

"If we can engage them in a conversation from the beginning about what brought them to nursing, we can keep them inspired and looking forward."

McCullough also encourages her students to discuss the poor nursing care they've witnessed or experienced, as well as what makes care great. And time after time, it seems that attitude is what makes or breaks nursing care, not knowledge or skill. 

"A negative mindset leads to burnout," McCullough stated. "Mindset is everything."

Along wiith her Rasmussen colleagues, McCullough has identified the keystones of nurse burnout, and these include but are not limited to: 

  • High-stress workplaces

  • Long hours 

  • Nurse fatigue

  • Staffing issues and high nurse-patient ratios

  • Bullying and incivility

  • Work-life balance

  • Higher patient acuity

  • Increasing demands on nurses

  • The lack of proper mentoring and leadership

"Acute care has changed so much in the last 20 years. Patients are sicker, acuity levels are higher, and nurses are asked to do more with less," said McCullough. "We’re dealing with critical patient care scenarios and great severity of illness. It's a more complex world now."

Dean McCullough also believes that burnout and incivility contribute to burnout. When bullying is present, nurses don't feel supported, and new nurses can often be targets.  

"Many new nurses walk away from the profession due to incivility. We should be supporting them instead" said McCullough. 

Mentoring New Nurses

During our conversation, Dean McCullough pointed out that there is a lack of true mentoring in the nursing profession. New nurses are onboarded in unskillful ways, and are then thrown into the field without the proper support. It's no wonder they leave the profession quickly. 

McCullough shared, "I’ve seen facilities where they’ve had 100% turnover of new nurses over the course of a single year – they can’t even keep them one year."

There’s an identified lack of support for new nurses as they continue through the profession, and they can get lured away to other industries that offer lower stress and higher pay. 

Thus, a mentoring culture is key in nursing education and out in the field.

Opportunities Abound

McCullough sees that nurses don't know what they're capable of and the many opportunities open to them.  

"It’s important for me to prepare our students for the reality of what they’ll face when they get into practice," she said. "I also want them to understand the vast opportunities they can have as a nurse. Who is mentoring our students when all they see is working at the bedside?"

Part of McCullough's mission is teaching new nurses about the varied opportunities they can find within the hospital setting and beyond. 

Rasmussen offers an LPN program, RN and BSN programs, as well as an MSN. Engagement is key, from the moment a student walks in the door until they retire from the profession many decades later. 

"We don’t lose engaged nurses," Dean McCullough concluded. "An engaged nurse will find new opportunities, avoid burnout, and create a meaningful and satisfying career."

Find a nursing job that sets you up for success!

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Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

Image: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

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