How Can Companies Prevent Early Career Burnout?

What organizational factors are leading to burnout of professionals early in their career? 

Burnout is a persistent, negative, work-related state of mind in individuals primarily characterized by exhaustion. It is accompanied by distress, a sense of reduced effectiveness, decreased motivation, and the development of dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors at work. The numbers of workers reporting burnout have been continually increasing in recent years, making it all the more concerning that these numbers are some of the highest among young adults beginning their careers. In addition, data in Europe shows that young adults (24-36) experience prevalent stress and anxiety and the highest levels of sick leave due to stress-related mental ill-health. A recent study, published in June 2022, “The Importance of Effective Organizational Socialization for Preventing Stress, Strain, and Early Career Burnout: An Intensive Longitudinal Study of New Professionals,” addresses this issue further. 

The study uses the job demands-resource model to help identify what organizational factors contribute to this problem. The job demands–resource (JD-R) model states that when job demands are high and job positives are low, stress and burnout are common and suggests that burnout results from exposure to job demands in combination with inadequate resources. Job demands include the physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of work that require sustained effort and are, therefore, over time, associated with increased risks of certain physical and psychological costs (strain) and the development of symptoms of burnout. Job resources are those physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of work that are functional in achieving work goals and stimulating personal growth, learning, and development. 

The study identifies resources (including acquired personal resources) as a buffer for the impact of job demands on the risk of developing symptoms of burnout. Additionally, a lack of these resources constitutes a risk factor for developing symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately, the transitional period from education to working life is often characterized by high demands and a lack of resources leaving new professionals particularly vulnerable to burnout. This combination of factors often culminates in entry-level professionals reporting lower levels of job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Furthermore, individuals who experience symptoms of burnout during the first years of their career experience more cognitive problems and sleep problems than individuals who did not have the same symptoms at the start of their careers. 

Despite this research, there is a fundamental lack of guidance in terms of how to prevent experiences of burnout among new professionals. The study suggests that organizations that wish to reduce the risk of burnout among their new employees should ensure that they experience high levels of role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance. Improving the development of role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance has been shown to relate to decreased levels of stress week-by-week and lower levels of strain over the first three months following professional entry. 

In conclusion, the study’s results showed that on weeks when participants experienced higher role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance, they reported significantly less stress. And participants who experienced higher levels of resources also reported substantially less strain. At Rift Valley, we are focusing on new findings such as this in designing our technology to enable management to support their staff and identify key resources. Our flagship technology, Tectonic, will allow employees to log and analyze their mental resilience over time and document specific daily frustrations or successes. Enabling employers to understand and address friction within their organizations transparently, creating a healthy work environment and reducing early burnout. 



Frögéli, E.; Annell, S.; Rudman, A.; Inzunza, M.; Gustavsson, P. The Importance of Effective Organizational Socialization for Preventing Stress, Strain, and Early Career Burnout: An Intensive Longitudinal Study of New Professionals. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 7356.

Rift Valley Health Company Completes NSF Beat-the-Odds Bootcamp 2022

SBIR Beat-the-Odds Bootcamp for Consumer Validation 

What factors foster rampant burnout in the healthcare industry?This is the question RVHC’s marketing team sought to answer during the NSF-led SBIR  Beat-the-Odds Bootcamp through July and August 2022. Throughout the process, we gained invaluable insight into burnout by listening to first-hand experiences of healthcare workers and the challenges they face.

Burnout and mental health disruption amongst healthcare staff has become a growing concern in recent years. Research suggests that addressing institutional factors, including understaffing, schedule conflicts, equipment malfunction, and retention of experienced staff, is key to reducing the daily pain points that exacerbate burnout.

In our in-depth interview process totaling over 15 hours of face time with nurses, managers, and additional hospital staff, we found these hypothesized problems to be both prevalent and distressing. Our goal was to understand nurses’ recurring pain points further. The feedback we heard from them most frequently included:

  • Feelings of burnout and exhaustion 
  • Feelings of disconnect between nurses and management 
  • Physical health issues resulting from workplace-related mental health disruption 
  • Depersonalization and compassion fatigue 
  • Severe understaffing, leading to poor nurse-to-patient ratios 
  • High turnover rates, leading to a reduction in experienced staff 

From our sample of nurse managers and upper management, key takeaways were: 

  • Difficulty communicating the needs of nurses with higher-up organizational decision-makers 
  • Understaffing and hiring is a primary pain point 
  • Travel staffing helps but is very costly, and minimal training 

Hospitals’ current methodology for obtaining mental health and burnout data on nursing staff is primarily limited to bi-annual or quarterly pulse surveys, resulting in a deficit in usable data and preventing nursing staff from reporting challenges as they occur. In addition, this data deficit makes it challenging for organizational decision-makers to address issues, leading to a significant communication gap that places pressure back on nursing staff. 

RVHC’s Tectonic platform aims to solve this problem via continuous, individualized mental health surveying. By empowering hospital management to identify and solve major pain points before staff leave, patients experience increased risk, or staff suffers psychological and physical health complications.

After completing the Beat the Odds Bootcamp, RVHC seeks to continue our conversation with nurses and learn how to integrate Tectonic within the complex hospital system better. We are applying to participate in NSF I-Corps long-form consumer validation course. Wherein we will interview 100+ nurses, managers, and other critical healthcare staff to continue learning and build long-lasting partnerships with healthcare institutions. 

Compassion Fatigue Vs. Burnout in Nursing

What is the difference between compassion fatigue and burnout in the nursing profession? 

Why are compassion fatigue and burnout on the rise in nursing? 


Pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic pushed hospitals’ institutional systems to a breaking point in recent years. More than ever, healthcare staff is feeling undervalued, struggling with mental health, burnout, and compassion fatigue, resulting in many nurses leaving the profession or transferring to outpatient care. Due to these growing problems, hospitals are failing to retain employees and turnover is rising steadily, which only exacerbates the issue. NSI Nursing Solutions reported that RNs exited the bedside at an alarming rate last year, and hospitals shed 2.47% of their RN workforce. This means that the turnover rate for staff RNs increased by 8.4% and currently stands at 27.1%. Registered nurses in surgical services, women’s health, and pediatrics recorded the lowest turnover rate, while nurses in step-down, telemetry, and emergency services experienced the highest. With severe staffing shortages, nurses are now often forced to work overtime and take on more patients at a time, making their work life more stressful and exhausting. 

So, what is the difference between compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing?

First, let’s talk about burnout. Burnout happens when nurses continuously feel emotionally exhausted, full of self-doubt, and cynical toward their patients and fellow health care workers. Diminished feelings of personal accomplishment are also characteristic of nurse burnout. Factors that increase the chances of burnout include an imbalance in workload, excessive work hours that can easily lead to physical and mental fatigue, lack of control, and inadequate compensation. 

Signs of burnout:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and panic
  • A sense of dread about going to work
  • Lack of joy on the job
  • Regularly arriving to work late
  • Taking excessive sick days
  • Resisting workplace changes
  • Withdrawing from social activities at work
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Disrupted sleep and insomnia
  • Body aches

In comparison, compassion fatigue is the gradual erosion of empathy characteristics that disrupts the patient-nurse dynamic. When nurses lack empathy, their ability to communicate with patients suffers. Numerous studies have established that empathy in healthcare is essential in achieving optimal health outcomes. Empathetic nurses better understand patients’ feelings and opinions, enabling them to conduct accurate assessments and design treatment plans that improve patient health.

Common signs of compassion fatigue include physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. The condition not only diminishes self-worth but also creates feelings of numbness. As a result, it can cause nurses to isolate themselves, neglect friendships, experience severe mood swings, develop pessimistic attitudes and disconnect from peers at work.

Physical symptoms of compassion fatigue:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle aches
  • Heart problems

In conclusion, the main difference is that repeated exposure to trauma that leads to compassion fatigue often alters a nurse’s ability to feel compassion. However, burnout doesn’t. Although burnout does lead nurses to depersonalize their patients, it doesn’t necessarily interfere with their ability to connect with people in other relationships. A stressful, hostile work environment causes burnout, whereas the impact of caring for others causes compassion fatigue. The consequences of both burnout and compassion fatigue within the healthcare industry don’t just affect the lives of nurses but also increase the risk of mistakes and decrease the quality of patient care. 

Research suggests that increased institutional support from management for individual nurses and better workload balance is critical in addressing compassion fatigue and burnout. Rift Valley’s goal is to help employees communicate effectively and transparently with managers. Our software monitors staff’s individual level of burnout and tracks which pain points exacerbate it. Managers will be provided with this data analytics, allowing them to keep a continuous pulse on nurse engagement and better address employee needs. 

How are the tools for measuring burnout at work evolving?

Burnout at Work
How measuring burnout has advanced in reliability and condensed from the traditional MBI method to BAT. 

Since the 70s Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) has been universally recognized as the golden standard in measuring burnout and is used in an estimated 88% of all scientific papers on burnout, MBI defines burnout as exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of professional efficacy, respectively. In addition, it measures three factors, labeled initially as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. 

However, the MBI method of measurement has been criticized for: 

  1. Skewed answering patterns that may affect its reliability. 
  2. Reversing positively worded items for evaluating a negative psychological state.
  3. Producing three different subscale scores instead of a single composite burnout score. 

Recently, a new form of measurement called the Burnout Assessment Tool (BAT) has emerged. Researchers of BAT have identified three flaws with MBI:

  1. Problems with the conceptualization of burnout and if reduced professional efficacy is a constituent part of burnout. 
  2. The MBI suffers from technical and psychometric shortcomings.
  3. The practical applicability of the MBI for individual burnout assessment is relatively poor. 

BAT was designed to overcome the flaws of the MBI by developing a novel burnout instrument that is suited for a group- and individual-based assessment of burnout. Their research aims to be pursued in both a qualitative and quantitative nature, respectively.

First, through formulating an alternative conceptualization of burnout, which is comprehensive and includes all relevant elements that are associated with burnout as conceived by practitioners. Second, based on this new conceptualization—a novel questionnaire that is psychometrically sound and practically useful for the assessment of burnout.

After the results from BAT’s study proved to be a viable, alternative burnout measure that assesses the burnout syndrome as such (total score), as well as its core components and secondary symptoms, researchers began seeking a way to shorten the survey to include only 12 items instead of the original 23. The motivation to conduct a shortened survey is partially due to burnout questionnaires typically being included in employee surveys to evaluate psychosocial risk factors, which according to the European Occupational Safety and Health Framework Directive, should be carried out in organizations regularly. 

The BAT12 fulfills the measurement criteria according to the Rasch model after accounting for local dependency between items within each subscale. The four subscales can be combined into a single burnout score. The new BAT12 developed in the present study maintains the breadth of item content of the original version of the BAT. The new BAT12 has good psychometric properties. The scale works invariantly for older and younger, women and men, and across two countries. A shorter version of the BAT is timesaving compared to the BAT23 and can be used in e.g. employee surveys.

The evolution of burnout measurement from MBI to BAT12 signals an encouraging trend that accurate assessment can be shortened while increasing validity. Rift Valley aims to use our innovative technology to take this a step forward in creating a method to measure burnout through minimal input from employees continuously and effectively, saving employees time while facilitating a sustainable way for employers to maintain real-time measurement. 


Rift Valley Health Company Awarded Competitive Grant from the National Science Foundation

Small Business Innovation Research Program Provides Seed Funding for R&D

Longmont, Colorado, March 24, 2022 – Rift Valley Health Company has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $256,000 to conduct research and development (R&D) work on improving wellness and mental resilience on an individualized level.

Workplace-related disruptions in mental health are one of the most pressing and costly challenges facing both workers and institutions today, and the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly amplified already-high levels of stress and burnout. When workers are unhappy, employees, organizations, and customers all suffer. While this problem is broad in scope and present across all sectors, healthcare is one industry where the effects of disrupted mental health in workers are particularly significant, costly, and high-risk.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

“The Rift Valley team is thrilled to be awarded this SBIR grant from the NSF and are ready to dive in and utilize this funding to bring our product to market,” said Loren Trottmann, Co-Founder. “We strongly believe our product has the potential to revolutionize the way in which individuals manage disruptions to their mental health and increase the quality of life through increased resilience to stress.”
Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $275,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II funding are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investments or sales.

About the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $2 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.5 billion, supporting fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.