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Rachel Wood, VCU School of Nursing researcher, on her search for remedies to combat nurse burnout

Since joining the VCU School of Nursing in 2022, Rachel Wood, Ph.D., RN, NPD-BC, CEN, CPEN, has continued to add to her growing body of research on nurse wellness and burnout. Having recently received several grants to further that work, she is eager to continue and take a closer look at loneliness among nursing professionals as well as what barriers to social connectedness exist in the nursing field.

Wood has her theories on what lies behind these trends, some of which draws from her own experience at the bedside. “When you are a caregiver, you are constantly offering compassion, empathy, support, encouragement, but you may not always receive those in return. Not feeling seen can leave you feeling lonely. Some workflow factors could include high acuity, high volume shifts where you don’t have time to work together in patient care or take breaks together with your peers. Stigma (although lessened these past few years) may prevent you from recognizing or admitting that you are struggling or feeling lonely,” she says.

Wood describes her own experiences and what her research findings indicate are the best ways nurses can avoid burnout, frustration or exhaustion. That advice includes staying aware of feelings and finding ways to express or share them with others. “Give yourself and others grace–lots of it. Make connections with others who have shared interests or experiences, and be real with each other,” she advises. “When it gets hard, tell them. When they are having a rough day, listen to them–see them. Know that you are not alone.”

Wood also says that maintaining good habits and practicing self-care–namely healthy sleep, diet, and exercise routines–are just as important as connectedness with nursing peers. While staying mindful of physical health will go a long way in avoiding exhaustion or burnout among nurses, her research indicates there is little substitute for personal connections and the benefit it can have for emotional wellbeing. “There are people in my life who I know I can turn to when I need a lift, and those who turn to me when they need the same. From my gym buddy, to my best friend, to my backpacking crew, to my family,” says Wood.

To learn more on Wood’s latest research, read her contributions to a recent article in Independent Nurse.

by Moira Neve

Categories Faculty and Staff, News
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