MINNEAPOLIS — Besides better pay, burnout is one of the leading issues behind this ongoing dispute between the Minnesota Nurses Association and several Twin Cities healthcare systems.
Professor Janette Dill studies health care systems at the University of Minnesota, focusing mostly on the workers who make those systems run smoothly.
"The working conditions right now are incredibly difficult,” Dill says. "What I would hear from participants again and again is that it was hard working during the pandemic and then it became much worse."
Dill says the situation for many nurses became worse after the pandemic, because that’s when even more nurses decided to leave the profession.
“The economy improved and there were just so many options for people with a nursing background. There are a lot of corporate jobs, white collar jobs that nurses could go to instead of working in hospitals or clinics where they might encounter more stress on the job,” Dill explains.
That turnover has created a downward spiral where the remaining nurses are asked to do more with less help.
“Turnover creates more turnover,” Dill says.
She says that downward spiral will be difficult to stop if hospitals, clinics and the nurses themselves, don’t address the core issues of mental health, stress and burnout.
"Burnout in nursing is very prevalent,” Winona State University nursing and health sciences dean Julie Anderson says.
That burnout is on the minds of many students at Winona State University, but Anderson says so far, they aren’t seeing any drops in enrollment.
More than 760 students are currently enrolled in the university’s undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.
Anderson says most students understand the problems in the profession and want to be a part of the solution.
"Our program is incorporating burnout resilience and taking care of self and wellness in every single one of our courses,” Anderson explains.
They're also teaching this at the University of Saint Thomas, which just opened a nursing school back in September.
"We are existing as nurses in a system that is consistently needing us to work overtime to take heavier and heavier loads with sicker and sicker patients,” assistant professor Raney Linck says.
Linck says they're also teaching new approaches to nursing, like a team approach where nurses can share the burdens of the job and have safe spaces to talk about the death and stress they deal with every day.
"You can't pour from an empty cup. Nurses, we take care of everyone else. We're not always the best about thinking about self-care, and that's critical,” Linck says.
Watch more local news:
Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist: