When Nurses are not Supported – who’s Taking Care of us When we are Sick and Tired

When nurses are not supported patients are the first to feel the pain


 

Nurses are resilient workers ready to face just about any situation at work. New trends however, show that nurses are not getting the support they need to safely provide quality patient care. Having few alternatives, nurses struggle to provide the services they feel patients deserve. Lack of support create unsafe conditions, and not supporting nurses have risks and a big price tag. Patients are ultimately the ones who pay the price without ever knowing – find out why.

For profit hospitals

The price tag of not supporting nurses among many others, include the risk of nurse’s burn out. Every individual has a breaking point, no matter how resilient they are. For profit hospitals don’t pay much attention to the culture of nursing and only see them as plain hired workers. The end result put patients at risk; create nursing dissatisfaction, and cause many to leave the profession entirely. Patients remain clueless of these problems in part because health care is complex and difficult no navigate.

Patients have not been educated to think of health care in holistic terms. Nurses could have a much bigger role in preventive care or simply be more involved in caring for patients with holistic approach. Health care today focus on disease management but there is little attention paid on how to prevent disease and avoid people from getting sick in the first place. Nurses have no option but to comply to their job’s guideline.


The public has little or no idea on how their medical services could be improved if nurses were supported


 

Here’s why nurses have a hard time providing quality services

Presently nurses have little or no time to spend with their patients. Divided and responsible for many different activities, nurses spend the bulk of their time away from the bedside. Nurses are given a “high responsibility status” which automatically makes them accountable for a overwhelming number of tasks.  Hospitals use that to their advantage, but not in benefit of their patients. How does that happen?

Nurses are required to perform: administrative jobs; social workers jobs; quality control jobs; and excessive charting. Even though nurses are perfectly able to perform these jobs; there would be far more benefits to patients if nurses were allowed to focus precious scarce time at the bedside. Unfortunately a fraction of nurse’s time is dedicated to patients.

Hospitals and health care facilities often are aware they need more nurses but in order to cut costs, staff is often thin and insufficient. Instead of quality patient care, they sell the ideal of good customer services by allowing patients to do anything they want as if they were in a hotel. This is not always to the benefit of the patients needing treatment.

To make matters worse, hospitals will only hire nurses if they come ready trained. A commodity increasingly hard to find. This in turn increases the difficulty in the hiring process creating more of the same.

Hospitals don’t train new nurses simply because they don’t want to spend the money, and fear that ounce trained – nurses will simply leave. This might be true and in fact it should be the norm. Someone have to train new nurses. Hospitals only see the their good half; that is when they are able to hired trained nurses, trained by another hospital. This is a shortsighted and irresponsible approach (brought by your for profit health care system). Somebody must train nurses and hospitals are the only entity able to do that specially for acute care nursing training.


“The bottom line is to make more money, but profit should be measured on how well we improve health and quality of life for our patients and not the enrichment of a few individuals”


 

But how exactly, nursing staff is being abused?

In  order to understand that we need to look a nursing culture as a whole. We need to understand that nursing is a occupation with rare and unique qualities. The public trust in nursing is a phenomenon seldom seen in other professions.

Nurses are dedicated and trained to handle intimate and difficult situation touching people’s lives in their most difficult moments. Situations of intense suffering and human degradation; unimaginable hardship brought by incurable diseases; death and dying and a collections of human emotions one can only experience in the frontier between life and death – a place where most of us don’t dare to go unless we are brought there by our fate. But nurses do that everyday – not always easy. Because of these unique set of talents, nurses are in a vulnerable position. Because they are the only one who can do it.

It is a perceived notion that nurses have a natural responsibility to the sick. That if you are a nurse you were given a gift of compassion for others. I believe that this is were the opportunity for abuse is has its origin. The fact that you have the power and ability to be responsible for others doesn’t necessary mean you have unlimited powers; doesn’t mean we are solely responsible for every outcome in every situation. Nurses are often given tasks that are beyond their power and time availability because they simply hold the hero’s title. I see this everyday.

Nurses are overworked  because they are expected to be successful at every single task they are given to accomplish. They are supposed to be responsible workers highly trusted by the public – therefore have the obligation to follow through in any situation. This in turn creates an overwhelming stressful working condition due to an anemic staff level. I call these practices a direct assault to the “nurses’ code of honor”. Where, because they are able to handle extraordinary situations, they have the obligations and duty to do it every time at no extra cost. It is easy to abuse nurses because they are too busy to even think they are being abused.

Nurses  leaving nursing

Its like a slow and progressive erosion; you don’t see it happening but if you are a nurse you know the stories of nurses that are just waiting an opportunity to jump ship. Or maybe quit nursing altogether because it is too hard and there’s no support available. Work should be enjoyable but no one can enjoy work under strenuous and unsafe conditions such as in nursing.

There are so many to take care of; every day is a battle front type day. Even if you are a strong and resilient individual your body will begin to react to the stresses. We have a smart and intelligent body. Even if you push through and have a enormous  resolve to get things done you end up getting sick. People end up leaving or migrating to other positions that are easier such as administrative jobs within health care.

The culture of nursing suffers from a lack of true appreciation that can be characterized by true support. The more nurses leaving the job, the less nursing left to train new ones. Hospitals simply ignore this and are unaware of the costs to the public. This in turn create a long lasting change in the culture of nursing; making nurses become less of caring and giving entities to become more of a time punching and simply and cover your ass type of professionals – is this what we want when we are sick and need good caring and loving nurses?


“There are so many to take care of; every day is a battle front type day. Even if you are a strong and resilient person your body will begin to react to the stresses”


 

Health care for profit does not protect patients

Hospitals refuse to train new nurses because it costs too much. Its a feedback loop that once started is difficult to revert. Right now there are still pockets of trained nurses to go around so the trend of no training continues. When hospitals desperately need nurses they can’t find any because nurses have not been trained for eight years now. But no new grad program policy are still in place, but worst yet. Institution will simply overwork their nurses so they can stay under budget and generate CEO’s bonuses. Patients are at risk and here’s why.

This practice of overworking or overloading nurses with impossible tasks translate into direct neglect to patients. The true is that nurses could be doing a lot more with their patients but can’t because they simply don’t have the time. Sometimes busy with unnecessary tasks such as extreme zealous documentation that require large amounts of time. Management is overgrown with rules and demands on nurses. Nurses are require to do jobs outside their job descriptions. Such as “learn to be hotel hostess”; attend endless meetings and forced to adopt new rules every 3rd day never able to accomplish half of them. But because these endless tasks are a priority and are audited; nurses dedicate all their time and energy to them rather than patients. Patients are already paying the price. They may not see it but they are much more at risk for med errors and all kinds of other errors because nurses are overworked and stressed. This is shortsighted and irresponsible.



The public places great trust into this health care institutions, being hospitals, skilled facilities or urgent care. These institutions are partially or completely funded by tax dollars. By not hiring more nurses, hospitals are putting the populations at risk and denying the public the health care they are paying for and need. Health care in the United States is on of the most expensive in the world yet it ranks the worst in the world as published on Time Magazine’s “U.S. Health Care Ranked Worst in the Developed World”

Education to the public is a priority

Patients need to be educated on what they are getting, what they could get and what they are paying for. Health care could be improved by simply hiring more nurses. Our nurses are excellent and perfectly able to provide the best care in the world. But they can’t do it without your help.

Resources

  1. New nurses burnout and workplacewellbeing: The influence of authenticleadership and psychological capital
  2. Perceived adverse patient outcomes correlated to nurses’ workload in medical and surgical wards of selected hospitals in Kuwait
  3. Why Are Nurses Leaving? Findings From an Initial Qualitative Study on Nursing Attrition
  4. Applying the Ethics of Care to Your Nursing Practice

 

Image credit: Jesse Millan

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