Bearing the brunt of a global pandemic for the last two years has left nurses shell-shocked, depleted, and burned out. With COVID hospitalizations on the decline, nurses are finally able to catch a breath and return to some semblance of normalcy in the workplace, but this breather is fraught with its own pitfalls. The collateral consequences of COVID burnout are taking their toll on nurses. 

When faced with a crisis, nurses rise to the occasion and are able to work overtime, handle a staggering number of patients, and multi-task, handling it all perfectly while not missing a beat. But now things have gone back to ”normal”, I’m seeing an increase in nurses being disciplined for charting errors, medication discrepancies, and patient care mistakes. What happened? I believe it’s a couple of things. 

First, over the last 2 years, management and administration have been occupied with the strain COVID put on their employees and hospitals. They didn’t have time to deal with a Pyxis discrepancy, but now they do. Healthcare is returning to business as usual and that means that nurses are back under the microscope. Mistakes are being caught and questioned.

Secondly, I think nurses are exhausted and emotionally drained and that can create apathy, which causes mistakes, or they’ve become accustomed to a more relaxed and streamlined process and aren’t checking all the pre-COVID boxes. Either way, mistakes are being made and are being caught and nurses are being held accountable.  As few as one or two charting errors can lead to an internal investigation and if found lacking, the nurse can be terminated and reported to the BRN for Gross Negligence.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the collateral consequences of COVID burnout?

Slow Down. I’m sure it’s hard to adjust to a new pace, but try to slow down and be fastidious and methodical in your charting. 

Take Some Time. For you, this may mean a vacation, a long weekend, or simply taking your ENTIRE lunch break, but whatever it looks like, take it. You’ve absolutely earned it and you need to re-learn how to make time for yourself so you stay fresh. 

Talk About It. COVID was traumatizing, for nurses especially, and internalizing trauma can wreak havoc on your emotional well-being, which causes you to make mistakes. Find a nurse support group, discuss it with your family and friends, or utilize a therapist. 

Advocate For Yourself. Just like you, administration and management are having to re-adjust to normalcy. If changes need to be made at your hospital to accommodate safe post-COVID practices, let your union or administration know. 

Defend Yourself. Finally, if you are already in a position where you are being questioned at work for mistakes or have been reported to the BRN, call us. We’ve represented thousands of nurses over the years in defending their licenses and the last thing I would ever want to see is your career being a collateral consequence of COVID burnout.

On a personal note, I would like to commend and acknowledge the impossible work and sacrifice you’ve made over the last 2 years and thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a nurse. 

Jennifer Coalson-Perez
Partner | CEO