In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced, health care environment, it seems those impacted the most by serious on-the-job issues are nurses. And why not? Nurses are on the front lines, providing patient care, making notes, updating care plans, alerting physicians, and dealing with administrative issues, over and over. Twelve hour shifts can quickly turn into 14-, or 16-hour shifts, or even longer should you need to cover for a coworker, or be short-staffed at the end of your shift.
Additionally, nurses field family questions and concerns, especially when the primary doctors aren’t available, provide counsel and comfort beyond immediate patient care, and act as the patient liaison with other hospital staff such as therapists and physicians. Ever increasing patient loads create even more burden and responsibility to add to already over-taxed nursing staff.
In a hospital, or clinic, setting, it’s essential that all care providers remain alert and ready to act, as needed. On the job issues impacting on nurses on the front lines can interfere with the ability to provide serious patient care, such as observing and monitoring patients’ conditions, managing IV lines, and ports, administering medication, maintaining charts, and reporting back to physicians and coworkers, as necessary.
There are 3 very common, and crucial on the job issues which impact on nurses. Many large hospitals and healthcare providers are taking steps to recognize and correct these issues, however, they do remain at the forefront of the ongoing discussion among nursing staff as impediments to quality care, and the overall job performance of those in the nursing profession.
Staffing concerns are high on the list of reasons many nurses leave the profession. Short staffing creates organizational issues, and can make nurses feel undervalued, and unfairly treated. Without adequate staff, patients needs go unaddressed, in a way that can threaten the very health and safety of those for whom the nurses are caring.
The fatigue that comes from working log hours, without breaks, and without sufficient assistance from coworkers, can endanger both the patients and the nurse on duty. Under staffing in hospitals, clinics, and nursing facilities can result in employee burn-out, causing quality nursing staff to flee elsewhere. When adequate staff is provided, patient care is enhanced, and, ultimately, the healthcare environment is vastly improved.
Required, or Forced, Overtime
Many healthcare facilities attempt to get around short staffing by implementing mandatory, or required, overtime for their nurses. Stress in the workplace is always counter-productive. Well-rested, positive, and alert employees perform better in all enterprises. In an environment that’s already stressed to the ultimate, requiring exhausted employees to cover back-to-back, or extended shifts creates a fast track to burnout, fatigue, and costly and dangerous medical mistakes. In other words, forced overtime is a recipe for disaster.
When nurses are expected to perform, many times, in excess of 12 hours, it’s by no means a sustainable solution to understaffing. Your nurses’ primary commitment is to the patient, and that person’s health, safety, and rights. When care staff is feeling the fatigue that comes from too-long, back-to-back shifts, and forced overtime, it’s the patient who suffers. This is contrary to every code of ethics for healthcare. Providing realistic support and coverage for your nurses, a chance to rest and recover between shifts, makes for a positive, healing, and safe environment for patients.
Hazards on the Job
A career in healthcare is, perhaps, one of the most hazardous careers today. For nurses, there are dangers and increased potential for harm and injury in many job-related duties. Every day, nurses are exposed to highly contagious gastrointestinal viruses, and cold and flu germs, from regular patient care.
Those who provide nursing care to bed-bound individuals, and patients with compromised mobility, risk injury to their back, including pulled muscles. Needle sticks and exposure to blood borne pathogens are very real hazards encountered by nurses, and nurses make up approximately 25 % of those seeking relief for contact dermatitis, brought on by following stringent hygiene protocols.
In short, nurses put their own health, safety, and well-being, at risk in order to care for those sick, ailing, and injured members of the community. Some of the hazards on the job are unavoidable, but many can be curtailed by providing opportunities to recharge and recover, between, and during shifts, and ensuring proper staffing based on patient numbers.
Realizing the staggering responsibilities of today’s nurses can make even the most dedicated caregiver think twice about his or her chosen career. Nursing, like most noble professions, is truly a vocation to which one is called. Sore calf muscles, headaches, and overall on-the-job stress can take a toll on those in the nursing profession, robbing everyone of quality care, and a positive healthcare environment. Providing nurses with a positive working environment, and an opportunity to have their concerns addressed, creates a healthy and productive workplace for all.