CNA sitting on stairs with head in her hands.

Reducing nurse burnout in long-term care and other healthcare settings is the goal of a three-year, $3.1 million grant partnership between the United Health Foundation and the American Nurses Foundation, UHF announced Thursday.

Stress and burnout are top concerns among long-term care workers, according to the results of an OnShift survey released in September. Forty-nine percent of respondents to that survey named stress and burnout among their top concerns, compared with 59 % in a previous study.

“Burnout cannot just be addressed one nurse at a time. This new partnership addresses burnout at the systems level, especially for those most impacted, including younger nurses and nurses of color,” Kate Judge, ANF executive director, said in a statement.

UHF will put up the cash, and ANF will steer the Stress & Burnout Prevention Pilot program, which is being implemented as a “train-the-trainer model” in four healthcare organizations representing more than 15,000 nurses in rural and urban locations in long-term care as well as in acute and primary care settings. The idea is that what is learned from those pilot sites will be used in a national awareness campaign reaching more than 50,000 nurses nationwide.

The pilot sites are still being selected, but one long-term care setting has been named so far, a UHF representative told the McKnight’s Business Daily. DeMay Living Center, which is part of the Rochester Regional Health system in Newark, NY, “will be a case study in how other smaller organizations, and long-term care settings, can implement this program,” the spokesperson said, adding that the skilled nursing facility has 46 nurses.

“Few could have predicted how unprecedented and demanding the past two-and-a-half years have been for all of us, let alone our country’s nursing staff,” said Mary Jo Jerde, RN, and senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Group Center for Clinician Advancement. “Nurses have played a vital role throughout this critical period and we’re committed to ensuring they have the resources they need to deliver care across the country.” 

Emotional exhaustion among healthcare workers, and nurses in particular, increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by Duke University researchers. The study found that emotional exhaustion, a measure of burnout and emotional well-being, increased from 32% before the beginning of the pandemic to 40% by January 2022, the investigators found.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, recommended in May six specific actions to address burnout:

  • Health systems should protect the health, safety and well-being of all health workers.
  • Providers should eliminate punitive policies for seeking mental health and substance use care.
  • Providers should reduce administrative and other workplace burdens to help health workers make time for what matters.
  • Employers, policymakers and associations should transform organizational cultures to prioritize health worker well-being and show all health workers that they are valued.
  • The healthcare system should recognize social connection and community as core values.
  • The United States should Invest in public health and our public health workforce.

The UHF / ANF pilot program is based on a framework originally developed for the military. It is designed to identify and reduce stress reactions before they develop into lasting issues and to provide nurses with the tools to speak about their stress / burnout using a common language, normalize talking about it and provide support to their peers, according to UHF.