When my granddaughter was about 2 years old, an incident occurred that both frightened and reminded me that there are some loads never meant to be carried at certain points in life. In that incident, I could not immediately locate my granddaughter in my house. I raced to the patio to look for her, thinking maybe she had managed to crawl through the pet door to the backyard again. Sure enough, there she was, trudging across the backyard while carrying the heavy plastic lid to her turtle sandbox. She was huffing and puffing, grunting with each step, as she labored to move that to another spot in the yard. I quickly ran to her and assisted, with some protest on her part, to let me carry the lid, her load.
Distressing Nursing Conditions
As terrifying as this incident was at the time, I can now think of applications to distressing nursing conditions in the new world of post-pandemic healthcare. The question of the day is: Can you carry the load? At this point, the question might set off a firestorm of angry responses from nurses. Responses might include, Are you kidding me? The question should be: Why should I be expected to carry this load? I recently saw a sign which read, “All employees must stop crying before they return to work.” It is shocking when signs like these need to be posted. We sacrifice to provide the best care possible under adverse work conditions and face opposition from those we expect and need to support and provide resources. Unfortunately, these demands have contributed to the nursing shortage we face today. While it may be easy to become resentful, it is critical for nurses who want to stay in the profession to learn how to manage distressing nursing conditions.
How Can You Carry the Load?
Because high nurse turnover is integral to our current nursing shortage. Let us identify the root of this problem. For those of us in nursing, I believe a closer look at the question “How can we carry the load” would be helpful to the nurse and the issue of current nurse working conditions. A 2009 study cites disillusionment as the # 1 reason for nurses leaving the profession. Though generational differences were found among respondents, and reasons for leaving the profession were complex and varied, the overriding factor in the decision to leave nursing pointed to a one-time “shock event” that tipped the scale toward departure. More importantly, what makes nurses stay in the profession? This key study tied a sense of altruism, empathy, and vocational interest to resilience and the decision to stay in nursing. Resilience, or the capacity to “ride waves” of adversity instead of sink, requires more than desire and commitment; it requires learned skills that are strengthened in several key areas from a high quality nursing program. In my lifetime as a nurse educator, I have worked with and supervised nurses with remarkable interpersonal skills, in areas such as personal presence and presentation, the “likeability quotient”, communication, empathy, and advocacy.
The Politics of Healthcare
I have come to respect the importance of power, personal power, and politics to succeed in nursing. Many times, I’ve heard nurses say, “I just want to be left alone to do my job - it’s about me and my patients!” It is because of our altruism, which drew us to nursing. Sadly, the power and politics of our modern healthcare systems and operations create negative feelings toward those systems and leadership. Many of us refuse to play the game of power and politics and withdraw to our patient care world, becoming more and more isolated. Often the result is a deep divide in our innermost “nurse being” between our world and the evil world of administration. There is some truth in this, though extreme. In our world of nursing, the end goal of quality care for our patients and maintaining a work-life balance is often at odds with the goals of a modern healthcare system. Sometimes we do not have the most qualified, effective, or supportive leaders. There is an overriding focus on cost reduction in healthcare, and nurses routinely feel the squeeze. Injustice aside, you can make a difference in the field by becoming an influential nurse leader or nurse educator.
The Power of a Nursing Degree
I can understand why nurses despair over working conditions but dissatisfaction does not need to progress to hopelessness, powerlessness, or departure from the nursing profession. Furthering your education with a nursing degree from Ottawa University will greatly increase your power and effectiveness in many key areas. You can become a powerhouse in the nursing workforce through honed skills in communication, leadership, and advocacy, and with a broader array of nursing career options available to you. There is hope. It is about increasing power - personal power and nurse power – through education and skill acquisition to meet the demands of healthcare.
It’s time to identify and target areas for growth and skill building and begin your search for an online RN-BSN or MSN program. Move yourself ahead! You are not powerless now. You have skills. You are a nurse.
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