We spoke with researchers on the factors that led to nurse loneliness – and what can be done to help.
Even though nurses may be around people all day — from colleagues to patients – they may still feel lonely, which could lead to job dissatisfaction, compromised patient care, and a high turnover rate among nurses, according to recent research published in the Journal of Nursing Management.
Thankfully, there are steps that nurse managers can take that may decrease feelings of loneliness, though there is still more research that is needed on the topic.
Oncology Nursing News recently spoke with the study authors, Aykut Arslan, PhD; Serdar Yener PhD, and Hulie Aitken Schermer, PhD, about their findings.
Oncology Nursing News: Can you briefly describe your study and why you conducted it?
Researchers: The main goal of the study was to examine how social interactions and meaningful people perceive their work impacts on the feelings of loneliness amongst nurses. Although the nurses contacted had busy schedules, they were very cooperative in participating in the study and luckily, we conducted this study before the global pandemic. The final sample consisted of 864 nurses. To fund the project, the first two authors of the article received a grant from Sinop University in Turkey.
How can nurses feel lonely, despite constantly being around colleagues, patients, etc.?
Just key in this phrase into Google, “feeling alone among crowds,” and it will yield hundreds of pages, professional and unprofessional, trying to shed light on this issue. Nursing is among one of professions that causes high rates of burnout, a condition which negatively impacts interpersonal relationships and reduces meaningful socializations. Therefore, although the nurses are surrounded by others, they may feel lonely.
What factors contribute to nurse loneliness?
We specifically examined the quality of interactions with managers, frequency of communications, the degree of trust felt about their supervisors, and the individual’s beliefs that their work is meaningful. Those nurses who experience fewer interactions, and of lower quality, with their managers, trust their supervisors less, and feel that their work is not meaningful have a much higher level of workplace loneliness.
What strategies can nurses do to prevent or manage these feelings?
Managers should be aware of this issue, as workplace loneliness is a serious problem. Training should be done with managers with respect to positive psychology interventions. Past studies have shown that improving the level of interaction between managers and nurses, such as by instigating a mentoring culture, can increase the sense of work meaningfulness, which, according to our research, will reduce workplace loneliness.
How does nurse loneliness, and overall nurse mental health, affect patient care?
Nursing care is of vital importance. Studies have found that nurses’ loneliness in the workplace may lead to a decline in their job performance and may lead to increases in turnover which would result in nursing shortages.
What more needs to be done in this field?
Loneliness in the workplace has only recently become a research topic and more studies need to be completed. Clearly there are more factors involved in predicting workplace loneliness than the physical job conditions.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We are grateful for those who help us to recover from the illnesses. All medical workers from physicians to orderlies have proven how important they are for a society and especially during this pandemic. As the frontline employees, nurses deserve greater recognition.
Arslan A, Yener S, Schermer JA. Predicting workplace loneliness in the nursing profession. Journal of Nursing Management. 27, February 2020. https://doi.org/10.1111/jonm.12987