Well, that’s an easy one. Nurses are heroes. The end.
Oh. Apologies. Our kind editors have reminded us that this article is expected to be approximately 980 words longer. So, let’s dive a little bit deeper.
Nurses are heroes, so often unsung, that communities often don’t realize how important they are until they are gone.
Which makes sense, because the immense value of a nurse is never in question when you need one. Go to the hospital for a routine anything and it is the nurses who you will inevitably spend the most time with. They lend their medical expertise, but often it’s their compassion and emotional comfort that most people remember best.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them to go around these days. In this article, we will take a look at the current state of nursing, and how a little bit of appreciation could go a long way towards fixing a serious problem.
The State of Nursing
No one was ready for the full force of Covid-19. As businesses and streets emptied, hospitals filled with patients experiencing a wide range of different symptoms— some of them fatal. There wasn’t enough equipment, and soon, there weren’t enough healthcare professionals either.
Nurses and doctors got sick, and couldn’t come in. Many of them quit the profession altogether. Many of the ones who stuck around came out the other end of the pandemic carrying difficult feelings, and no easy access to an outlet through which they could process them.
Several years later, it feels like the healthcare system still hasn’t quite recovered. Hospitals all over the country are still facing staffing shortages that have a very real impact on the level of care they are able to provide their communities.
Is Covid completely to blame? It’s so easy to blame the pandemic on—well, anything. But while it certainly didn’t help the nursing shortage, it isn’t the only thing to blame either. There are a couple of important things you should understand:
- The nursing shortage started well before the pandemic. That’s right, well before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, analysts were ringing the alarm bells. The situation? Lots of nurses were retiring, and not enough were coming up to take their place.
- About half of all nurses quit within their first five years. Staggering, but true. Healthcare has an insanely high turnover rate that has caused dangerous shortages all over the country.
So that’s the real situation. Lots of nurses are leaving the job. Not enough are coming up through the ranks to take their place. It’s an unsustainable dynamic that has already caused significant problems. Left unchecked, it could undermine the entire healthcare system.
Can showing nurses a little bit of appreciation really make a significant difference?
Well, Can It?
Recognition and appreciation in the workplace are strongly associated with turnover reduction. It also has positive benefits for morale, productivity, and general employee quality of life. Below, we highlight a few benefits that can come from regularly celebrating the efforts of nurses.
Note that “celebrate,” in this context can have many meanings. From shoutouts, to publicly advocating for healthcare workers, there are many ways you can show the nurse in your life support.
It Makes Their Lives Easier
The best thing about recognizing healthcare workers in earnest is that it has the potential to make their lives easier. If we want to dial things back to preschool rules, that could be the beginning and end of the conversation. We tell our kids to be nice for the sake of doing a little good, right?
But treating healthcare workers the right way has the potential to do good for the entire community. Hey, who doesn’t love a twofer?
Nurses who are satisfied at work will:
- Stick it out past that five-year hump: Plain and simple, there will never be enough nurses if we can’t keep people in scrubs for more than a couple of years. Job satisfaction is more strongly associated with employee retention than raises and promotions are. People want to feel happy. Who could have guessed?
- Work better: People also just work better when they are feeling happy at their jobs. In healthcare, that’s pretty important. Burnt-out nurses are well-known for suffering from a wide range of mental barriers that keep them from working at their best. For example, compassion fatigue. The feeling of being so mentally exhausted that they are no longer able to empathize with their patients. Not the kind of care most people are expecting when they walk into the hospital.
- Feel better: Nurses experience depression and anxiety at a significantly higher rate than many professionals. It’s not extremely hard to guess why—they work pressure jobs and routinely witness very difficult things. Support—particularly mental health related support—can make the job a little easier.
Public recognition is a great way to help nurses feel appreciated. However, to meaningfully change the healthcare industry it will take more than just a pat on the back.
More than Just a Pat on the Back
Certain aspects of being a nurse will always be challenging. They interact people at their most difficult moments. It’s hard not to bear that burden even outside of work. But not everything about the job needs to be hard.
Currently, most nurses work twelve-hour shifts. Weekends, evenings, holidays, and so on. Nothing can be done about the need to staff hospitals around the clock. However, some healthcare professionals are trying to change scheduling practices to give nurses a better work/life balance.
There are also many initiatives to change the workplace culture of hospital settings all over the country. Do research to find out what sort of support healthcare workers in your community are looking for. You may be surprised how easy it is to make a big difference in the lives of nurses and other health professionals.
Nurses Week usually takes place in early May. It’s an informal but important holiday-type celebration for recognizing nurses. It’s also a great time to start looking into some of the advocacy and recognition efforts described in this article.
Nurses Week is characterized by everything from public recognition to discounts and opportunities for nurses to enjoy free stuff. If you are a business owner, or in a position to financially contribute to recognition efforts in your community, this would be an excellent opportunity to do so.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the good work nurses do is vital every second of the year, so never miss an opportunity to show them your appreciation.