Help coming: $2.2 million in federal funds to help extinguish nurse burnout

A Nebraska pediatric nurse seized opportunity that landed competitive grant

By: - February 18, 2022 4:33 pm
Image of an Omaha Fire/Rescue vehicle

(Eric Francis/Getty Images)

As a sleep researcher and nursing instructor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Alyson Hanish saw plenty of colleagues and students burn out during the pandemic.

So when she saw an invite from the Biden administration, she seized the grant opportunity — and now will lead a $2.2 million project to promote resilience and mental health in the state’s nursing workforce.

Alyson Hanish, PhD, MSN, RN
(Courtesy of University of Nebraska Medical Center)

The competitive award is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and aimed at retaining and strengthening nurses of various levels, as well as students and employers, who work in rural and medically underserved areas. 

Nurses quitting in first year

“We’re in a complicated environment,” said Hanish, a pediatric nurse and sleep researcher who teaches in the College of Nursing. “We know burnout is increasing and about 25-30% of new nurses quit in their first year.”

It’s part of the puzzle ... an investment in nurses.

– Alyson Hanish, PhD, MSN, RN

Her “gut reaction” to do something has the mother of three now assembling a team involving the UNMC College of Medicine and College of Public Health, Nebraska Board of Nursing, Nebraska Center for Nursing, Nebraska Hospital Association and Critical Access Hospitals.

“The health of nurses has to be a priority,” Hanish said. She said the team will develop and implement wellness interventions so nurses, in turn, can provide the best care to patients. 

The team will lean on a UNMC-developed stress management program called WHOLE (Wellness — How One Lives Effectively). It will be tailored to nurses whose traditional training is how to help others, not necessarily themselves, Hanish said.

Declutter mind and physical space

Examples of stress-reducing techniques and strategies to be explored with nurses as a result of the grant include: meditation, diet, breathing through acute stress, decluttering physical and mental space, even the role humor can play.

Talking about each other’s stress and burnout is relatively new in the industry, yet it has been a pronounced need brought to light by the pandemic, Hanish said.

To be sure, she said, systematic conditions, including staff and equipment shortages, contribute to stress. The outreach afforded by the three-year grant will give nurses tools to reduce stress within their control.

“It’s part of the puzzle,” Hanish said. “An investment in nurses.”


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.