While attending continuing education conferences and networking with professors in schools of nursing I have had opportunities to talk with these nursing professionals about their quality of work life. These professionals work in schools of nursing that span from the East coast to the mid-Western states.
Of the professors that I chatted with, more than half stated that the environment for nursing education has changed. I pressed for more information to learn that in their opinion:
• Students are disrespectful
• Students challenge basic facts
• Students minimize their role in infection control practices
• Students want all evaluations to be quantitative and not qualitative
I found this information interesting and asked for more elaboration. One professor stated that recently students are “taken aback” when realizing that they have to do work outside of the classroom. The amount of time they are willing to invest to supplement theory and clinical has reduced over the years. Students are questioning the importance of creating care plans and care maps and do not see their relevance when providing patient care.
Another professor related an experience where a student was questioning the term ileus. “Who created the term? Why is it used? Why do I need to learn this?” The professor was frustrated because the student could not grasp that there are terms and phrases used in healthcare that have evolved over the years. Yet another professor was challenged with helping students learn nursing diagnosis. One student was irate when a paper was marked as incomplete because medical diagnosis was used instead of nursing diagnosis. As one professor stated “it’s almost like the student does not see nursing as a profession.”
My ears perked up at this comment since I’ve been struggling with the de-professionalization of nursing for many years. If nursing is not a profession, then what is ‘it’? Responses to this question included:
• A job
• A way to meet other people
• A road to a leadership position
• A way to earn a large income
When asked about minimizing infection control practices one professor stated that students do not see the value in using soap and water to wash their hands. Yes, the use of antiseptic cleanser is readily available but is being used inconsistently. And when reminded to do hand hygiene “eye rolling” is a common student response.
I then needed someone to expand on the quantitative versus qualitative evaluation approach. One professor stated that students want everything scored electronically. They want hard values and statistics applied to tests, essays, care plans, and other written assignments. They do not want “the opinion” of the professor to enter into the grading system whatsoever. As most nursing instructors know qualitative measurement is difficult to apply to some nursing assignments.
My time spent with these nursing professionals was valuable. I learned much about the current environment for nursing education and the expectations being placed on both the professor and student. Of the professors I talked with more than half are investigating leaving the profession. Their individual plans ranged from writing textbooks to expanding personal interests and hobbies. I believe these nurses epitomize burnout.
I soon realized that my quest to learn why nurses dislike their jobs had come to an end. I learned quite a bit from this data gathering expedition and have identified several themes:
• Nurses dislike the environments in which they work
• Nurses dislike inequality between the different roles
• Nurses dislike the expectations placed on them by others within and outside of the profession
• Nurses dislike these inequities so much that they learn to dislike themselves and other nurses
Unfortunately I have no suggestions to fix any of these issues. But this does not mean that I will stop trying to do so. Thank you for reading this series about why nurses hate their jobs. Next week a new topic will be introduced. See you then!