5 Business Lessons from Our Nation's Stressed Out, Burnt Out and Exhausted Nurses

When you are sick or injured, you head to your nearest hospital to be taken care of. What happens, though, when you realize that the very people treating you are sick and in need of healing themselves?

Based on a new national survey, the registered nurses (RNs) taking care of you are extremely stressed out -- sometimes dangerously so. A total of 3,312 RNs responded to the survey, which was conducted online in May, 2014 by Vickie Milazzo Institute, the nation's oldest and largest legal nurse consulting training institute . The results revealed that RNs in the United States experience extreme levels of stress that are likely to bring a crisis to the healthcare industry.

There's a lot for a business to learn from the way healthcare facilities are bungling their management of RNs. To that end, here are five important business lessons:

1. Understand How Treatment of Employees Translates into Client Success...or Failure

Stress contributes to mistakes. A hospital is no exception. In fact, in the fast-paced environment of a medical emergency, those mistakes can be the difference between life and death.

It's one thing to say that your business is "client centric" or that you focus on your clients' success. But are you focusing on the very people in a position to deliver that client success -- your employees? Your treatment of employees has a direct impact on your bottom line, much more so than many businesses care to admit.

2. Treat Downtime as a Strategic Asset

One of the main contributors to the stress felt by RNs is a lack of sleep. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents rarely get seven to eight hours of sleep in a night. Merely 17 percent responded that they are "always" able to achieve this level of sleep. On top of the lack of sleep, RNs are regularly expected to work extended 12-hr shifts, night shifts as well as on-call shifts.

In today's 24-hour, "always on" business and media culture, it's important to give your team the rest it deserves. Scheduling downtime can be just as productive for the business as scheduling all the tasks to be done. Don't let something so basic lead to disasters for your business.

3. Give Them a Voice

Seventy five percent of survey respondents feel they do not have the authority they want at the workplace. This is downright scary, given that nurses are the ones we are in contact with most when we visit a hospital.

The best problem-solving involves an open mind and the sharing of ideas. Allowing ideas to percolate from ANY part of the business can be a powerful way to not only generate innovative and effective new ideas for the business, but also to boost morale, engagement and loyalty among your internal teams.

4. Be a Great Leader

Management has the responsibility to LEAD the company. Think of the massive success of Starbucks, and it's visionary leadership team. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has focused on providing employees (even part-time employees) with benefits beyond what anyone else in the industry provides, including healthcare for part-time employees and now two full years of college tuition. This type of generosity has historically made investors cringe, but Schultz has consistently proven that these policies help the company to ultimately deliver profits. It takes true leadership to do what's right, rather than what's most expedient for the bottom line, especially in the face of criticism.

5. Treat Employees Like the Heroes They Truly Are

Handling dozens of patients each shift. Handling many more family members of patients each shift. Life or death situations. Quick decision-making. Long hours. Lack of breaks. Night shifts. On-call shifts. The life of an RN is stressful.

RNs have to deal with everything thrown at them by management, doctors, patients and patients' families throughout every shift. They need to discharge the patients with whom one started during a shift and then take on seven or eight new ones, with the need to remember what every single patient needs at all times. Nurses are the ones in the trenches saving lives. Yet nurses are often berated by management and doctors.

Remarkably, even with all of these cards stacked against them, RNs somehow find a way to pull off miracles as they devote themselves to our health and well-being. Imagine treating these RNs like the heroes they truly are. Imagine how many more "miracles" they would produce.

Your employees are similarly tackling issues in the trenches every single day. Are you treating them like the heroes they truly are?

Read the Survey Results

The Vickie Milazzo Institute survey results as well as a SlideShare summary of survey highlights can be found here.