How does nurse burnout affect patient care? Nurse burnout was very common before the pandemic also, but the pandemic has worsened the situation. 

Increased workload, long working hours, work-life imbalance, and emotional and physical exhaustion have made nurse burnout a very common term among healthcare professionals. 

What Is Nurse Burnout and Patient Safety?

Nurse Burnout is a long-term stress reaction caused by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of sense of accomplishment.

Burnout nurses lack enthusiasm for treating patients, lack empathy and care towards patients, get irritated very easily, take more time to accomplish certain tasks, and thus impact patient safety and healthcare organizations negatively.

Nurse burnout and patient safety goes hand in hand, as burnout among the nurses hampers their productivity, and ability to serve their patients. Burnout nurses may not be able to devote the required attention and care to their patients to ensure full and proper care.

Now let’s understand what patient safety means.

What is patient safety

As per the National patient safety goals outlined by the joint commission important patient safety measures include:

  • Identifying patient / residents correctly
  • Using medicine safely
  • preventing infections
  • preventing patients
  • Preventing bed sores

At the most chaotic places like hospitals, tracking every coming and going of patients, and attending to their varying needs moment by moment is a bit challenging for nurses.

At large hospitals, the patients-to-nurse ratio is used to be 8, meaning one nurse has to look after eight patients, their correct medications, monitor their vitals, and also have to ensure they are safe and comfortable.

Nurses are constantly required to document and record everything they do with patients and ensure their safety. 

Advancement in technology has eased some of the burdens of nurses of documentation and record keeping. But very rarely nurses are given chances to give their opinion about what works well with the system and what could be improved.

Very often nurses are expected to learn new technology equipment very quickly, which adds to their frustration and depreciation.

Thus constant juggling of patients and their records is physically and emotionally exhausting for nurses. Even in normal conditions nurses over burdened with work and less appreciated which leads them to burnout.

Effects of nurse burnout on patient care

As per the September 2018 Health affairs study, burnout healthcare professionals doubled the odds of an adverse patient safety event.

Patients receiving care from burnout professionals also reported low professionalism or low satisfaction.

As per the report of British Medical Journal, patients’ safety decreases when they are treated by burnout healthcare professionals.

As mentioned above in any normal condition also the roles and responsibilities of nurses are very high. Against this, they often fail to receive the respect and appreciation from their employer that they deserve which results in nurse burnout.

In an environment of nurse burnout, it’s highly impossible to focus on the quality of patient care. 

Now let’s see the effects of nurse burnout on patients.

1) Empathy

The very first nursing burnout effects on patients is the lack of empathy of nurses toward patients.

One of the common signs of nurse burnout is lack of empathy or insensitivity towards patients. Constant exposure to suffering and dying patients, and disrespects towards their work make them less empathetic towards patients.

This compassion fatigue impacts the quality of patient care, as insensitive nurses see the patients as just numbers and not real people.

Burnout nurses often overlook what their patients are saying and this impacts the quality of care.

2) Patient Engagement

The second effect of nurse burnout on patients is reduced engagement of nurses with patients. Because of so many patients in hand and the urge of completing the task, nurses could not provide sufficient time to each patient. They could not respond properly to the query of nurses.

This impacts the patients negatively. When patients feel that nurses don’t engage with them well they hesitate to ask for help. 

Patients avoid asking for help or avoid mentioning their pain level or their need to use the restroom when they see a nurse is exhausted or busy.

This may result in adverse health consequences and put the patient’s safety at risk.

3) Emotional exhaustion

Even after giving 100% and not being able to save the patient, seeing their family members grieving is emotionally exhausting for nurses. 

Emotional exhaustion results in burnout. This emotional exhaustion prevents them from indulging with other patients deeply. This impacts the nurse patient engagement, and ultimately patients’ satisfaction.

4) Mental Health

As per the recent study in Australia, more than one third of nurses feel depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. This kind of mental health affects the job performance, and particularly in the case of nurses it affects the quality of patient care.

The patients treated by nurses with mental health issues are at a high levels of health risk and lower levels of care.

5) Long work hours

It’s very common for nurses to work for more than 12 hours on a daily basis with breaks depending upon patients. You will always find nurses on their toes and working round-the-clock. They often have to work double shifts and night shifts. 

Patients are not recommended to go to a hospital where nurses work more than 13 hours. Because long working hours make nurses tired and less attentive towards the patients. This hampers the quality of care patients receive.

6) Nurse Turnover

Due to burnout, many nurses have considered leaving their jobs. As per the AONL, 18% of surveyed nurses said that they planned to leave their current job in the next six months, and 4% of surveyed nurses said that they would leave the nursing profession in the next six months.

With the speed at which nurses are leaving their job, recruitment is not happening at the same speed, which is creating a gap in the healthcare organization. Because of this, the patients-to-nurse ratio is getting increased and accelerating the effects of burnout on nurses issue and hampers the quality of patient care.


Thus, in order to provide the best quality patient care, and stand out as the best healthcare organization in the healthcare industry, addressing the nurse burnout issue is a must.

One of the ways to combat the nurse burnout issue is to recruit an optimum number of nurses. 

To overcome the shortage of nurses and maintain the optimum workflow of nurses choose Ampliz as your hiring partner. 

Ampliz provides you with the most accurate, authentic, and reliable contact information of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, etc. to ramp up your recruiting process and have the most qualified and experienced healthcare professionals in your healthcare organization.