The Biggest Problem Facing Nurses-It Isn’t What You Think

Stress in the workplace isn’t limited to any one profession. Across the board, American workers are burdened day in and day out, with stress and anxiety on the job. From job performance to interpersonal relationships with coworkers to dealing with the daily demands of those they serve, employee burnout is a common occurrence.

In the healthcare industry, anxiety and stress are at an all-time high among caregivers. Nursing staff, in particular, deal with long shifts, mandatory overtime, and highly charged situations on a regular basis. As if that isn’t enough, nurses also find themselves burdened by the usual workplace stressors such as conflicts with coworkers, disorganization, and lack of support from management and administration.

Given all that nurses must endure on the job, it’s markedly surprising that the biggest problem for nurses, in all types of healthcare facilities, is the realization that patients’ needs are not being met, while nursing staff deal with a growing list of ‘other’ less hands-on care duties. In fact, in a recent survey of nurses working in hospitals and care facilities, more than half cited not being able to provide the expected care to their patients as a cause for concern, and a whopping 70% viewed short-staffing as the source of the problem.

Budget Cuts that Benefit No One

It’s no wonder the care providers and nursing staff are frustrated in the wake of ongoing staff cuts made by healthcare facilities. Corporate goals of efficiency may boost the “bottom line”, but these cuts do nothing to enhance the care of the patients. Conversely, this trimming and pruning of quality nursing care providers is actually more detrimental to the care and comfort of those who need it most.

Nurse fatigue is very real. After back to back shifts, required by many hospitals and care facilities as a condition of the job, and the endless demands put on nurses during their shifts, weary personnel shouldn’t be expected to make life and death decisions regarding medication, and when to call a physician.

This frustration has become a source of daily stress for nurses, everywhere, causing further concern over the patients for whom they provide care. When nursing staff is spread far too thin, the environment can quickly become hazardous for the patients and toxic for nurses. The disconnect between administration and the duties of floor care create a feeling among many nurses of futility and letdown.

Where’s the Care?

The nurses’ first duty should remain patient caregiving, however, as the job description grows and tasks become more numerous, many overburdened nursing caregivers find patient care eclipsed by physicians demands, the needs of patients’ families, and the constant “administrivia”, so pervasive in health care today. Impediments to patient care can result in nurses questioning the very vocation to which they were called, and, possibly and regrettably, abandoning a career in nursing for something else.

Change the Conversation

There’s no disputing that the frustration of nurses’ ability to meet their patients’ expectations is directly linked to the imbalance in nurse-to-patient ratios. Changing the circumstances, through changing the conversation, especially in today’s healthcare environment, is no easy undertaking. Many hospitals, nursing facilities, and rehabilitation centers, offer PRN positions to part-time staff, but, this only helps when the patient census requires.

The concerns of nurses regarding the frustration over an inability to meet patient expectations is real and needs to be addressed in order to provide a positive workplace environment for nurses. Improving job satisfaction starts with addressing theses issues and coming up with a mutually beneficial solution.

A nurse who feels as though he or she is making a fundamental difference in the health of his or her patient, providing comfort and care, will be less likely to succumb to career burnout. By acting to fill in the gaps in nursing staff, healthcare facilities are actually enhancing the bottom line. With improved patient satisfaction and by retaining trained, experienced, and qualified nurses, census numbers will continue to climb.

Successful Patient Care

Quality nursing staff is the basis for successful patient care. When nurses are able to perform their duties, in a reasonable fashion, everyone wins. There’s a reduction in medical errors, medications are given in appropriate doses, job performance and productivity excel, and there’s even a decrease in patient mortality.

An overburdened nurse, who’s concerns go unaddressed by those in charge, can easily give in to the fatigue and frustration that accompanies burnout. A positive and beneficial work environment leads to enhanced patient care, and fulfilled nurses, happy to be at the forefront of a changing healthcare environment.


Photo credit: COD Newsroom via Visual Hunt / CC BY

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