Burnout at a Systems Level

Mar 17, 2022 | COVID-19 |

This episode and blog post are Part 2 of the second special report of our Vaccine Confidence Special Reports series on At the Core of Care. Over the course of 6 episodes, we'll do a deep dive on three different facets of the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Stay tuned for new episodes in the coming weeks by following us on Twitter and subscribing to our newsletter

Dr. Dewi Brown-DeVeaux joins us to continue this special report’s discussion on burnout in nursing. As a Director of Nursing at a major academic Medical Center in New York City, Dr. Brown-DeVeaux is a leader whose two main roles are to develop a healthy organizational structure and to serve as a liaison between nurses, patients, and other executive leadership. She works to stay in tune with her nurses’ needs and builds supportive environments for staff and patients. The pandemic has amplified this part of her role. “My job turned into 70% support,” she says.

When asked about the major causes of burnout, Dr. Brown-DeVeaux says COVID-19 is still the biggest factor. “Providers are currently at the mercy of the unvaccinated,” she says. Healthcare providers anticipated that the development of a vaccine would be a “triumph” over the pandemic. Many healthcare workers were motivated to power through until a vaccine became available. By now, vaccines have been available to most adults for almost a year, and still many people remain unvaccinated. This has led to persistent COVID-19-induced stress among nurses today.

We also ask Dr. Brown-Deveaux to share what she would tell a nurse who is frustrated by those who remain unvaccinated. Dr. Brown-DeVeaux believes in meeting people where they are, and she is optimistic that enough people will be vaccinated when they feel they are ready to make that decision. She encourages nurses to have conversations to understand where the patient is in their decision-making, rather than where the nurse wants the patient to be.

As a leader in the field, Dr. Brown-DeVeaux’s role is to provide platforms for patient-provider conversations about the vaccine. One way she’s done this is to go directly into neighborhoods. The Greater New York City Black Nurses Association, of which Dr. Brown-DeVeaux is a member, partnered with FEMA to provide outreach in African American communities. Cultivating an environment where people can ask questions and feel that their concerns are heard can allow meaningful change to occur.

Dr. Brown-DeVeaux is still attempting to increase vaccine confidence among nurses, too. While some nurses are skeptical of conflicting information about the vaccine, Dr. Brown-DeVeaux believes that practicing medicine requires trust in science and a commitment to the common good. She also says that vaccines are a “gift.” Getting vaccinated is the best way to ease the anxiety around COVID-19 and reach the end of this pandemic, and is the greatest gift a person can give to a nurse who is burned out.

If you are a nurse, Dr. Brown-DeVeaux reminds you to address burnout when it creeps in. Sustained, high levels of stress can cause depression and anxiety, and so it is important to find the help you need. Likewise, “take care of each other on a continuous basis.” Dr. Brown Deveaux says that asking someone if they need help feels good and can go a long way in improving workplace culture.

Nurses and other health professionals across the country are using innovative methods to vaccinate their communities against COVID-19. Follow along as we explore their stories in depth as part of our Vaccine Confidence Special Reports. 


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This project was funded in part by a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant number NU50CK000580). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this resource center do not necessarily represent the policy of CDC or HHS, and should not be considered an endorsement by the Federal Government.



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About The Author

Annelise Slater is a Public Health Project Coordinator at the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium. 

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