The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group has announced a three-year, $3.1 million grant partnership with the American Nurses Foundation to fight nurse burnout with the Stress & Burnout Prevention Pilot program. The program is designed to transform organizational culture, remove the stigma associated with seeking mental health support and offer nurses a new burnout prevention model to help them use mental health resources earlier and more effectively. It stands out from other programs because it will emphasize and validate the voices and needs of millennial and Generation Z nurses, as well as nurses of color to ensure their unique experiences are recognized and addressed.
“Given the complexity, intensity and intimacy of what nurses do every day, nurses’ need for mental health support has always existed. This has been exacerbated tenfold by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kate Judge, executive director of the American Nurses Foundation. “Burnout cannot just be addressed one nurse at a time. This new partnership addresses burnout at the systems level, especially for those most impacted including younger nurses and nurses of color.”
Nurses are facing mental, emotional and physical burdens from the demands of health care during the persistent and unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic. The American Nurses Foundation will pilot the program, implemented as a train-the-trainer model, in four health care organizations representing over 15,000 nurses in rural and urban locations in acute, primary, and long-term care settings. Participating health systems include BayCare Health in Tampa Bay, Fla.; Indiana University Health in locations throughout Indiana; University of South Alabama Health Hospital in Mobile, Ala.; and Wayne Health Care in Newark, N.Y. Learnings from these pilot sites will be used to iterate and evolve into a national awareness campaign reaching over 50,000 nurses nationwide.
“Few could have predicted how unprecedented and demanding the past two and a half years have been for all of us, let alone our country’s nursing staff,” said Mary Jo Jerde, RN and senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Group Center for Clinician Advancement. “Nurses have played a vital role throughout this critical period and we’re committed to ensuring they have the resources they need to deliver care across the country.”
The pilot program is based on a framework originally developed for the military and since deployed in other demanding professions. It is designed to identify and reduce stress reactions before they develop into lasting issues. It goes beyond identification of burnout to intervention by helping nurses speak about their stress/burnout using a common language, normalize talking about it, and provide support to their peers. Program learnings will also be incorporated into a national awareness and education campaign, providing free anti-burnout resources for frontline nurses and nurse leaders.
The new partnership addresses findings from the most recent Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses Survey, indicating the impact of the pandemic:
- Nurses reported high levels of feeling stressed (71%), frustrated (69%), exhausted (65%), burned out (49%), and overwhelmed (58%).
- Millennial and Generation Z nurses (age 34 and under) conveyed these feelings more than their older counterparts: stressed (81%), frustrated (76%), exhausted (77%) , burned out (69%) and overwhelmed (69%).
- Nurses of color echoed these feelings. They report feeling stressed (73%) and burned out (55%).
Additionally, an American Nurses Foundation survey in August 2021 found that 34% of nurses do not feel emotionally healthy and 42% report experiencing trauma because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty percent of nurse respondents said they are considering leaving the profession.
This commitment is one of the many ways UnitedHealth Group is working to advance health equity by ensuring every person, regardless of race, place, or circumstance, has the opportunity to live their healthiest life. In 2020, the United Health Foundation also teamed with the American Academy of Family Physicians on a program to address burnout among our nation’s family physicians. Since the start of the pandemic, the American Nurses Foundation has invested in resources and programs focused specifically on addressing nurses’ mental health as well as examining their unique experiences responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.