Necessary tools for nursing
We are only beginning to truly recognize the lack of real personal mental protection for nurses and hospital staff from the very real dangers of compassion fatigue and burnout — a problem that has been present for much longer than it has been the subject of scholarly articles. For decades, hospitals have utilized morning huddles to increase efficiency and improve patient care. Little, however, has been done to equip health care workers with the tools they need to protect and defend their own mental welfare. A recent study from the University of Michigan found that “nurses are 90% more likely to experience on-the-job problems and 20-30% more likely to be depressed than the general population.”
It takes a lot more than a sphygmomanometer and a wristwatch to be a nurse, and the most important tools of all you won’t find on medical supply websites. It also takes more than the simple one directional, quasi-motivational morning huddles, which in actuality are much more disciplinary in nature than true engagement. Huddles treat nurses as the child who can never do anything right focusing primarily on fault rather than success. “Engagement matters. Recognition matters. Making sure workers are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance matters. And leadership really matters.”
Yet, the current policies employed for caregiver retention in the healthcare profession have led it to the precipice of an unacceptable future for nurses. “Since 2015, the average hospital turned over 89% of its workforce. Market analysts say that health care’s turnover is second worst, only to hospitality.” More people are willing to remain working in hotels than hospitals, clearly illustrating that morning huddles are not addressing the core issues at hand. In the article “The top 5 reasons why nurses quit their jobs” researchers found that out of “nearly 4 million nurses surveyed, nearly 17%—or 676,122—reported having considered leaving their position. Among those, 43.4% identified burnout as a reason they would leave their job.”
Although you might think that this is an issue that only affects war weary nurses that have worked in the most grueling of environments, an article called “The (Not So) Great Escape: Why New Nurses Are Leaving The Profession” explains that there are “alarming rates of up to 33% of new nurses leaving the workforce within the first two years.”
Despite that “83% of respondents in the AMN Healthcare 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they were satisfied with their choice of nursing as a career. That view stayed consistent across all age groups; 82% of millennials and Gen Xers agreed or strongly agreed, and 84% of baby boomers did as well.” says the article “Should You Become a Nurse? 5 Things to Consider.”
Almost two-thirds of the nursing schools responding to the survey pointed to a shortage of faculty and/or clinical preceptors as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs.” Which shows that nurses as a whole are not willing to teach new nurses. In other words, they chose not to encourage, recruit, and create new colleagues to join the profession. Considering that the average hospital turned over 89% since 2015, one would imagine more would have chosen to transition to teaching than leave the profession as a whole.
It is clear that money and morning huddles have proven insufficient in improving compassion satisfaction or nurse retention. Nurses need to be equipped with the tools to care for themselves as well as their patients. Much like a holistic view is usually the best option for our patients, an integrative view will be the best option for ourselves. We must combine modern medical and esoteric thinking with the best practices of the largest corporations in the country. As with all violent or traumatic events, the best intervention will be one that is actively PASSIVE:
Protection – must address the need for Mental Protective Education, as well as Personal Protective Equipment.
Administration – must be much more accessible and approachable.
Staffing – must be based on needs of the clinician and the patient, not on the payroll
Scheduling – must allow for rejuvenation after an extraordinary event
Incentives – must focus on personal growth, education, or emotional well being
Value – must be measured in more than dollars and cents
Education – must include medical, spiritual, and emotional theories on stress relief
Photo: Fly View Productions, Getty Images