Nursing is amongst the most challenging but rewarding healthcare-related professions anywhere you go. In fact, Barrack Obama, the former president of the USA, praised American nurses and branded them as the driving force behind the American healthcare system. Any healthcare-related career comes with obstacles, and nursing has its fair share of issues. These issues make the work environment extremely difficult for nurses, decrease their overall satisfaction levels, and hinder their ability to provide high-quality patient care.
Some of these workplace challenges include exposure to disease, short staffing, workplace violence, long shifts, and much more. And in order for nurses to perform their duties with superior efficiency and thrive in such a challenging work environment both professionally and personally, they have to overcome these obstacles daily. That said, let us look at some of the challenges nurses face on the job every day and how they can overcome them.
The nursing profession requires individuals to remain highly competitive and competent. Meaning, they have to acquire specialized certification and further education to stay up-to-date with the latest nursing best practices. Although continuing education can benefit both a healthcare institution and the professional, it is usually difficult for nurses to take time from their busy schedules. Not to mention, the already existing work-life balancing issues in a nurse’s life are no less tricky to manage. Continuing education without proper planning will only present more challenges.
In order to overcome this challenge, nurses can opt for an online education instead of a campus-based one. There are numerous online MSN nurse practitioner programs and other nursing-related certifications available on the internet. Not only will you be able to work as a full-time nurse, but you can also study and hone your nursing skills in the process.
Staffing shortage is an issue that plagues the nursing field since its inception. On top of that, the Covid-19 outbreak has increased this issue tenfold. Short-staffing leads to medical errors, overworked employees, and reduced care quality. But, what are the reasons for such short-staffing issues?
According to research conducted by Science Daily, there are more 50-year-old nurses than 30-year-old ones. It means that the number of nurses retiring these days is far higher compared to a decade ago. While more nurses retire, more patients flood in through the hospital gates. To overcome such a challenge, healthcare leaders need to bring about change. They should encourage more individuals to acquire a nursing education and take up senior roles to provide better care. For example, full-time RNs should be encouraged to complete a DNP program online to be able to upskill and perform more diagnostic functions. Also, healthcare leaders can request retired nurses to brush off their lab coats and get back into the nursing game to overcome short-staffing when the demand is high.
Workplace politics is already an ongoing issue in any organization. And combined with the nursing profession, you have yourself a recipe for disaster! Politics in the nursing profession usually include biases, taking credit for other nurses’ efforts, bullying, gossiping, etc. Being a victim of hospital politics most definitely leads to decreased job satisfaction, resulting in you searching for a new job eventually.
The best thing you can do to overcome this challenge is to stay as far away from people known for stirring the pot. Try to remain as neutral as possible during confrontations and avoid discussing any hot topics that might trigger a negative reaction from your coworkers.
Furthermore, consider becoming a travel nurse if you think you find it hard to avoid hospital politics. A travel nurse moves from city to city. They usually don’t stay at a particular healthcare institution for more than three or four months. They aren’t around long enough to experience the aftermaths of workplace politics.
Long working hours
Nurses often work long hours, which is because of two reasons- understaffing and cost-cutting. Whatever the reason may be, working more hours than you’re supposed to can affect your health severely. Furthermore, it can also affect the quality of care you deliver to your patients, putting their health at risk.
Moreover, when nurses work long shifts, they aren’t well-rested, meaning their bodies won’t recover quickly. For instance, nurses who work long hours succumb to chronic shoulder, leg, and back pain. Some end up developing long-term medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. Plus, you might suffer from impaired mental function, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness by not resting adequately. To counter this issue, always make the most of your one-hour break. If you can take a short nap, go to the breakroom and do so. Resting up will refuel your body and allow you to see your shift through without even breaking a sweat.
Exposure to viruses
It is a nurse’s responsibility to look after and care for sick patients regularly. There is a higher chance of coming in contact with patients who suffer from infectious diseases and viruses. Plus, Covid-19 is already making a nurse’s life difficult. However, to avoid contracting deadly diseases and viruses, nurses can take a few necessary precautions. These include;
- Taking probiotics regularly
- Maintaining distance from sick patients
- Using proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
- Using hand sanitizer before and after touching surfaces
- Washing hands regularly
Taking such preventive measures will ensure you stay healthy and always be ready for work.
Burnout and stress
Long working hours and little to no rest between breaks negatively impact anybody’s health, let alone a nurse who already does overtime. So, it is understandable that a nurse experiences professional burnout due to being overworked. Such a thing can result in a nurse making bad job-related decisions, proving to be problematic for the healthcare facility and, most importantly, the patients. After all, misjudgments at the hospital can lead to life or death situations and litigation. Furthermore, exhausted nurses tend to make more managerial mistakes, which can cause administrative issues for the healthcare facility.
To overcome this challenge:
- Ensure you stop and take some time out to refuel yourself
- Look after yourself and get some well-deserved rest before going on your shift
- Get at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep and eat your meals on time
You can also perform some physical activity such as jogging or going for a walk at the park to energize yourself. Moreover, don’t forget to engage in a healthy conversation with your family and friends during your day off. Sometimes, all work and no play will negatively affect you physically and mentally.
The uphill battles you’ll face when working as a nurse will leave you disheartened and alone. However, remember you are not alone. Always ask yourself the reason for taking up the nursing profession. And keep reminding yourself that you’re in it to help humankind. Also, try getting in contact with local nurses as they will relate to your struggles. Who knows, you might end up finding a few tips or pieces of advice that will help you deal with the everyday challenges of working as a nurse.