During the past couple of years, few professions have been analyzed and written about more than nursing. From working conditions to safety, from salary to what you wear, nurses have been put under a microscope during the pandemic.
Many nurses are choosing to leave the profession, and for those who stay there are issues they’ll face throughout their careers. The American Nurses Association has sussed out three of the more pressing issues facing nurses today.
“Our health care system faces immense challenges,” ANA wrote. “Staff shortages brought about by cost-cutting decisions, an aging population, increased patient complexity and need, and an aging workforce places stress on working conditions for nurses and affects patient care and overall outcomes.”
In a November survey of nurses, one person responded: “Lack of resources, lack of staffing, lack of getting all our concerns addressed … Those are very draining, especially when we’re supposed to provide patient care and do a good job. All the drama from work and things like that, those don’t help. If anything, it just makes the environment more toxic and unbearable, definitely, and at one point, it will start affecting … your mental health and your physical health, even your spiritual health.”
In a report published with the consulting firm Avalere, the ANA recommends “that staffing levels in a value-based health care system should not be fixed, as day-to-day hospital requirements are constantly in flux.”
According to 2019 research from New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, new nurses work plenty of 12-hour shifts, clocking in a “troubling” number of overtime hours — and 13% of them hold second jobs.
And this was before the pandemic.
“Staff nurses across the nation are reporting a dramatic increase in the use of mandatory overtime as a staffing tool,” the ANA wrote. “This dangerous staffing practice, in part due to a nursing shortage, is having a negative impact on patient care, fostering medical errors, and driving nurses away from the bedside.”
When you become a nurse, you know you’re going to be exposed to diseases. That’s why they give you personal protective equipment.
What they might not prepare you for are the back injuries, and the slips, trips and falls.
In 2015, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration set new safety inspection guidelines, based on data showing that hospitals have some of the highest rates of workplace injuries and illnesses in the country.
The ANA also wrote that needlestick injuries and blood-borne infections concern nearly two-thirds of its members. “While the majority of sharps injuries involve nursing staff, laboratory staff, physicians, housekeepers, and other health care workers can also be at risk and need protection. ANA is working to reduce those risks through education and legislation: arming health care professionals with the guidelines and resources to prevent injuries; and their employers with the ability to create workplace environments where they can do so.”