Our Nurse Watch column from a couple of weeks ago — which focused primarily on the nurse burnout “public health crisis” — seems to have struck a chord with readers across the country.

In the few short weeks since the piece ran April 19, it has taken off, garnering thousands of clicks, making it our most-read item in April. Several readers also shared their thoughts on the blog, which was a quick roundup of what a couple of hospitals are doing to help relieve the stress of everyday work life for nurses. Those remedies included launching “renewal rooms” so that RNs can relax in a massage chair, listen to calming music and perform a little yoga during the day.

One of our readers, Amelia, said in the comments under the article that she likes this line of thinking. “I would love to see a hospital invest in having a meditation center staffed with a nurse coach,” she wrote. “This could be [a] cheaper alternative to a high turnover rate.”

Other hospitals, meanwhile, have tried relieving nurse burnout by restructuring their leadership or using simulation training to practice living through certain uncomfortable situations as a caretaker, we wrote. A few of our readers don’t seem to believe there is any sort of magical cure for nurse burnout, and that it’s just about putting the right management in place.

“Nothing enlightening here. The answer is leadership,” reader “Nurse Venturers” wrote in the comments under the original post. “[Hire] great leadership and staff won’t leave. We still are looking for complex causes. Ask the nurses who leave … [it’s because of] leadership and not much more.”

Reader “eiggam2” shares similar sentiments. “Agree, [that] current leadership [is] leading to [this] disaster,” the commenter wrote. “Getting the alphabet soup after your name does not produce a great or even good leader. Our field is, was and always has been patient-driven.”

In another comment a few days earlier, that same reader, “eiggam2,” went a little deeper into why leadership, she believes, is the crux of the issue.

“Nursing leadership is a root cause [of burnout] or lack thereof. “Managers and those [in] leadership roles very often do not possess the qualities to maintain, let alone lead, the backbone of the industry. The gap between those assigned to these leadership roles and those who perform actual nursing care is overwhelmingly wide and continues to broaden. Theoretically, we can invent pseudo solutions which were dreamed up in some boardroom, but until we hand nursing back to nurses, we will be doomed to extinction.”

I poked around the Web and found a few more recent articles on this topic, if you’re looking for further reading, too:

  • This Health Affairs blog from April goes as far as calling burnout in the health care workforce an “epidemic” and “national crisis,” one that should be treated as a “national priority.” The authors urge health care leaders to set specific targets and time frames to reduce clinician burnout, and combat stress at every level of the organization.
  • Another piece from a Denver TV station details how a former military flight nurse is helping fellow RNs cope with stress, which she labels as “compassion fatigue,” experienced after witnessing patient suffering. Kathleen Flarity, now a researcher with University of Colorado Health, helps nurses to recognize when they’re suffering from that fatigue. She encourages them to cope with it through breathing exercises, meditation and sharing with others, the station reports.
  • And, in this article from U.S. News & World Report last week, writer Lisa Esposito explores the root of compassion fatigue and burnout, which she says is a shifting care system and increasing loss of autonomy. She offers a few more solutions to the problem, such as practicing mindfulness and teaching yourself to be “present in the moment.”

What do you think are the biggest root causes of nurse burnout in the hospital field? And what do you see as the key strategies to addressing this epidemic of stress for front-line clinicians? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or with me through email at mstempniak@healthforum.com, and watch for continuing coverage on this issue.