Nursing is an honorable and immensely gratifying profession – one that brings a real difference in people’s lives. And nursing professionals are an indispensable constituent of the healthcare system. These professionals wear a lot of different hats, from organizing patients’ health records and overseeing medication to conducting diagnostic tests. In addition, they provide care to vulnerable patients and support them throughout their recovery period. Today, nurse practitioners have gained recognition as reliable figures in society. As per the American Association of Colleges & Nursing (AACN), it is the country’s largest healthcare profession with a workforce of 3.8 million nurses.
Although it is a lucrative and satisfying career, the issues nurses face in everyday life make it a challenging one. These challenges existed right from the emergence of this field. From social inequalities to the lack of nursing professionals, the challenges continue to rise. Unfortunately, given the lack of regulations, these issues have now taken a turn for the worse. Not to forget how the current pandemic has inflicted a public health crisis. And since nurses are on the forefronts during the Covid-19, their mental health has been severely affected. In addition, long and hectic working hours, sleep deprivation, loneliness, being away from family members took a massive toll on nurses’ health and hampered productivity.
Before diving into the array of challenges that nurses face, let’s shed light on a crucial point.
Continuing education to enhance productivity
As the current workforce grows old, the freshly-minted nurses replace the retiring ones. However, this leads to an education-complexity gap. Although novice-level nurses might have a comprehensive understanding of the academics, they still lack experience dealing with several patients at once. It ultimately impacts their work productivity and performance. Therefore, it’s critically important for newcomers in the field to pursue continuing education.
They can consider a master of nursing nurse practitioner to gain an in-depth understanding of the field and take their skills up to par. In addition, a master’s degree can equip nurses with all the tools to tackle the challenges head-on that may crop up in the future. Moreover, higher education degrees allow nursing professionals to incorporate a holistic approach, enhance nursing expertise, and improve productivity and performance.
Now, let’s discuss the challenges that cause detrimental effects on the health and the productivity of nurses:
Shortage of nursing professionals
According to AACN, the rate at which nurses are leaving this profession is increasing rapidly. Approximately 40,000 nurses left this career in 2010, and now this figure nearly reached 80,000 in 2020. While this may create job opportunities and vacant positions for aspiring nurses, it has created chaos for those who hold the fort. This situation is nothing short of alarming for the healthcare industry.
The shortage of nurses is a matter of growing concern for the healthcare sector. Today, hospitals and clinical institutions employ fewer nurses to save costs and meet their budget requirements. But unfortunately, the staff nurses compensate for the absent nurses and have to work overtime due to this. And this makes them miss out on important events in life and adversely influences their social life, too.
A low staff workforce jeopardizes the health of patients and puts their lives at risk. Not only this, but it also handicaps the ability of nurse practitioners to deliver quality care. When nurses cannot dedicate time to their patients, take care of them, and coordinate with their families, it irks them to no end and makes them frustrated.
Heavy workload and burnout
The job of nurses is far too different from a 9-5 corporate job. They usually have to work overtime – from looking after the patients and charting to monitoring the medications. And this affects their physical as well as mental health.
Nurses have to complete long and demanding shifts if the healthcare facility is understaffed or the management is trying to drive down costs. When nurses tirelessly work for more extended periods, they cannot find enough time to take breaks between shifts. For instance, they might suffer back, shoulder, and leg pain. A few of them might also suffer from cardiovascular diseases or diabetes due to the extensive workload. Also, dealing with patients with severe illnesses causes fatigue, traumatic stress and increases the risk of burnout.
Although it is a rewarding career path, nurses must take short breaks to recover and focus better. Otherwise, this might hamper their services, and they might not make proper decisions while on jobs.
Gone are the days when pagers and other such devices were the only sources of communication between nurses and other healthcare professionals. The healthcare industry is ever-evolving, implying that almost every healthcare facility has access to the most efficient, latest, and sophisticated technology. Today, healthcare staff members collaborate through smartphones and applications.
However, while technology has streamlined operations, some nurses still find it challenging to catch the pace of the growing technological innovations. In addition, due to increased workloads and long hours, learning new software might get overwhelming, especially if one isn’t tech-savvy. For instance, electronic medical records (EHR) have completely substituted paperwork. Similarly, telehealth, automated IV pumps have mitigated the chances of human error. However, old nurses get intimidated by the newest technology, and thus, this affects productivity.
Since the healthcare industry is continually in flux, new challenges might arise for nurses in the nearest future. However, whether you are a permanent staff member or someone who works through an agency, you can overcome the obstacles that keep springing up with the right strategies. So, catch short breaks during the daily grind, ensure to eat a healthy diet, and don’t overtax yourself. Although rewarding, this field requires pertinacity, dedication, and stamina; therefore, practice self-care. As long as you keep yourself in good health and stay updated with the current trends, you can work efficiently and serve the patients well.
Besides, healthcare organizations should also enforce measures to ensure a motivated and highly-trained workforce and foster a productive environment. Addressing nurses’ concerns and providing solutions can help nurses feel empowered, challenged, and determined to continue providing the best services without any hindrances.
Having completed my Bachelor’s degree in medicine and currently pursuing a house job at a well-reputed hospital in California, I decided to utilize my spare time in sharing knowledge with others through my blog. Apart from my time spent in the medical field, I love to read fiction novels and go on long drives.