Many nurses and non-nurses alike struggle to maintain balance as members of our 21st-century society, and the demands of work and life can often seem overwhelming. As the backbone of the healthcare industry (and the largest percentage of healthcare workers worldwide), nurses are intrinsic to the optimal function of the healthcare system and the positive patient outcomes that the system strives to produce.
In my work as a nurse coach who focuses on self-care, burnout prevention, burnout recovery, wellness and work-life balance for nurses, I see the deleterious effects of stress on nurses. During coaching sessions, I hear first-hand how nurses are frequently driven to the edge of their ability to remain sane and healthy in the face of the demands placed upon them. Many leave the profession due to such extraordinary pressure.
Like anyone else, nurses have families to care for, friendships to nurture, homes to maintain, and careers to feed and water. And in tough financial times like we are currently experiencing, personal time and leisure can often be the first “luxuries” to be rejected in exchange for increased hours at work, educational opportunities, and other means to career advancement.
We all hear about mandatory overtime, dangerous nurse-patient ratios, and clinical environments in which nurses feel overworked, undervalued and overwhelmed. Due to the economic realities of the times, many potentially retiring nurses are choosing to remain in the profession, and a plethora of new graduates are finding it surprisingly difficult to find work in an industry that was said to be experiencing a shortage of qualified workers.
So, the pressure builds, nurses burn out, patient outcomes suffer, and the cost of healthcare is potentially increased due to the need to maintain a robust nursing workforce despite the challenges standing in the way.
As a society, I believe that it is essential for us to recognize the importance of nurses, support reforms that will ease the undue burdens that nurses suffer, and create a sense that nurses are valued and intrinsically essential members of the healthcare community.
Nurses experience a large percentage of work-related injuries, as well as rampant spiritual distress and burnout. Few workplaces in the healthcare industry provide the types of supports that allows nurses an avenue for stress reduction that can ultimately lead to increased nurse satisfaction (and, thus, improved patient outcomes).
Work environments in the healthcare industry can be toxic on many levels, including chemical toxins and toxic interpersonal dynamics. It’s also common for healthcare facilities to ignore worker dissatisfaction, shrug off complaints regarding bullying, and otherwise give little attention to worker happiness and well-being. This can truly be a recipe for disaster, and woe to the hospital, agency or health facility that allows this level of neglect of workers’ needs to continue for extended periods of time.
Healthcare consumers may not realize just how toxic hospitals and healthcare workplaces can be, and if they only knew, they might perhaps go screaming in the other direction. That said, our ageing population continues to need and demand quality healthcare. So, if healthcare consumers could simply learn how difficult it can be for nurses and other providers to perform their jobs and maintain balance as they do so, perhaps a consumer-driven healthcare revolution would sweep the nation.
We need a revolution in healthcare. We need nurses to be supported and valued. We need workplaces to be interpersonally and environmentally non-toxic. We also need consumers to be stakeholders who take an active interest in their own care, but also in the welfare of those who provide that care. While this may be a revolutionary idea to some, we also understand as a society that we need to support certain public servants (firefighters, teachers, librarians, police officers) so that they can provide the services that we need. Nurses–the backbone of the healthcare industry–also need such support, and it’s high time for nurses to receive it.
Healthy, balanced and satisfied nurses are in the interest of everyone who accesses—or will access–the healthcare system. The system simply cannot function without nurses, and nurses cannot continue to function in environments that sap their strength, push them to their limits, and otherwise undermine their ability to perform. Nurses are important, so let’s provide the support that nurses need so that they can do what they do best. It’s in everyone’s best interest, singularly and collectively.
In addition to Co-Hosting RN.FM Radio, Keith’s passion is coaching nurses. He offers specialized coaching to help nurses live the healthiest and most satisfying lives possible! “I believe that nursing should be something that you do and that you love, not something that does you in!” Please visit NurseKeith.com for more information, to contact him about coaching, and to sign up for his e-newsletter.