Opinion: Modern Challenges In The Nursing Profession and How Nurses Are Overcoming Them

Rick Martinez RN

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Deciding to become a nurse and doing it isn't for everyone.

But for those who do indeed take the plunge and earn their RN, we soon realize that there are a set of unique challenges within the profession. Look, this is not to say that you shouldn't become an RN or that you should leave the profession. Quite the contrary.

What I was hoping you could take from this is knowledge.

Knowing what we face and navigating it will only make us better. Better as individual p[ractitioners, and better as a group of professionals.

There are several difficulties that nurses regularly confront, including staffing shortages, contact with and continued exposure to sickness, workplace violence, and much more.

Let's have an honest discussion about some nursing problems and solutions to overcome them over time.

The nursing shortage

It's here, and it's real. We simply don't have enough nurses, and that's coming not only from this author but this author who is also an actively practicing travel RN.

The nursing workforce shortage has been getting worse for a few years. Consequently, medical mistakes, falls, accidents among hospital patients and patient care suffer. The nurse crunch puts extra pressure on working nurses, adding to their stress levels and contributing to burnout.

It's a vicious cycle, to say the least.

To tackle this problem, it will require the participation of many people and not just nurses. One action you can take is to notify hospital administration or management of your concerns and observations relating to the nursing shortage and how it's impacting your job. Also, becoming familiar with state legislation regarding nurse-patient ratios and training new nurses.

Continuous exposure to illness

As an ER nurse of over twenty years, this has never changed.

It's simply a part of the job, and it does affect us. As RNs, we are around sick folks 24-7-365, and it's why we exist as a profession. Toss in the lingering pandemic, seasonal flu outbreaks, and of course, all of the illnesses that weather changes bring, and taking care of ourselves is a top priority.

Self-care is a critical part of our health and wellness and is crucial for our mental well-being. Here are a few things we can do to stay tip-top.

Taking daily vitamins is always a plus. Besides that is getting 15-20 minutes of exercise in, even if it's just walking the stairs. Of course, hygiene tips like frequent handwashing and sanitizing our work areas are also important.

Finally, getting enough sleep and having some downtime is more critical than ever.

These recommendations, when followed, will help you stay healthy and ready for whatever life and shiftwork throw your way.

Violence in the workplace

This is real. I've seen it myself as well as the consequences.

According to a 2018 American Nurse Today article, 67% of all nonfatal injuries caused by violence occur in the healthcare field. A full 80% of all injuries are due to our patients, closely followed by family members.

Verbal threats or physical assault are examples of violence. This brutality, unfortunately, is frequently neglected.

If you are a victim of this or witness it, be sure to repost it to your leadership immediately. Of course, if it's more threatening, then first call security or 9-1-1. The goal is to foster change and maybe even develop policies that will also lend to the retention of RN staff.

Staffing ratios and overly busy shifts

Sure, we work twelve hours at a time, multiple days per week.

We're busy, and it's a challenge. Many folks who aren't nurses see that 12-hours is a long time, but the truth is, it's often not nearly enough time for nurses to get all their work done. With the sheer number of tasks being plopped onto us, it's a more significant challenge day after day.

No lunches and infrequent bathroom breaks are the norms.

But they shouldn't be.

Some things I've done to overcome this are to make sure that I'm on time, even earlier than usual. This way, I have ample time to prep for the next 12-hours and also what to expect. Also, while taking lunch and potty breaks is challenging, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take a quick break for both.

Facility politics

West coast, east coast, or somewhere in the middle, hospital politics exists and can be a challenge for us all.

At its essence, politics could be anything from shop-talk and gossip, to management playing favorites, to mandatory staff meetings on your days off. For we nurses having to deal with all this, it can lead to being unhappy at work and even leaving for greener pastures.

Of course, one glaring option is becoming a travel nurse.

Hospital politics are nearly absent, and every 13-weeks, we get to move to a new facility and new cities. Heck, as a travel RN, you won't even be there long enough to have to deal with all those issues.

But if travel nursing isn't an option, then sometimes simply taking the high road is.

***

Sources:

1. Health Affairs

2. Wall Street Journal

3. Beckers Hospital Review

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I'm a freelance writer and a decades-long travel nurse. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare.

San Antonio, TX
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