Recently I was at a gathering which included many seasoned nurses. These nurses work in a variety of settings including out-patient renal dialysis, ambulatory surgery centers, and acute emergency room care. The years of nursing experience ranged from 5 years to 20. The major comment being made focused on “hating” their jobs.
Being curious I asked why everyone “hated” their jobs. The responses I received included:
• Hours are “terrible”
• Regulatory requirements take too much time to complete
• Continuing education courses are not applicable or reimbursed
• Staffing numbers are “lean” with higher nurse to client ratios
• Expectations to participate on committees of no interest
I needed to dig deeper to find out what specifically is causing this sudden uproar to “find” new jobs. At this point I was reminded that it was not just to find new jobs, but to investigate a new profession! I was floored! Here I was in the midst of talented nurses who wanted to walk away from the profession of nursing!
What is happening? One particularly vocal nurse shared that the profession is deteriorating. There is “talk” about shared governance and alternate care delivery methods to improve work flow and client outcomes but the motivation and leadership support fades after a few months. And then everything reverts back to the way things were done ‘before.”
Another nurse stated that becoming specialized and earning certification did not provide any additional benefits with the employing organization. And this nurse has yet to find an organization that rewards additional education or certification beyond the basic salary structure.
Many of these nurses all agree that the ongoing “shift work” is detrimental to their health and home lives. Many of the organizations have attempted to help with altering the times and lengths of shifts however it has helped few of the nursing staff.
One nurse stated that “self-scheduling” started out as being a positive attempt to assist the staff with the issues of shift work however “rules” were imposed that limited the number of daylight shifts that any one nurse could work in a schedule. This was strictly enforced even with those staff who desired to work off shifts because of family care needs during the day. Many of the nurses agreed that efforts to “improve” are often thwarted by management adding “rules.”
I asked the nurses to share their thoughts on ways to improve their individual unique situations. One nurse stated that staff should be hired to staff one particular shift only. The constant incessant changing of shifts has deteriorated many of the nurses’ health and having one steady shift would improve this tremendously.
Another nurse suggested that each nurse be awarded a specific dollar amount to be placed towards continuing education. Each nurse would be able to pick and choose programs that would be beneficial for their area of expertise and not just be about “whatever” is currently in “vogue” in the profession today.
Many nurses believe that the work environment would improve if there were more nurses to help provide client care. The nurses to client ratios have been “creeping” upward with no plans to add more staff. And one nurse added that with computerization and primary nursing, there is no real “need” to have one charge nurse for a care area. The “charge nurse” role could be eliminated, leaving an additional nurse to provide direct client care.
Unfortunately I was in no position to help these nurses make these changes but I did encourage them to seek out someone with whom to share their ideas. I have no idea how many of these colleagues will eventually “leave” the profession or when. However I hope that they will stop and think about what they might be able to do to make things better before walking away.
Next week’s blog will focus on nurse managers who want to leave nursing. See you then!