It’s a buzz I hear every shift I work, “The hospital is short nurses and aides…” The tension on the unit is thick. Will there be enough nurses? Will I have to take more than 6 patients? Will I only have 1 CNA for my unit of 25 patients? Will I be asked to check my email, fix a missing code status, remove equipment from the hallways, be reminded to not violate HIPPA by leaving my notes at the nurse’s station face up? Will I be asked to be the team lead with a full load of patients, do an inservice on the unit, not leave the patient’s in the bathroom alone, make sure all my patients are happy, document the fall risk score in two different places now because the IT people changed the process again? I really could go on and on here. The tension and dissatisfaction of nurses who are working in stressful conditions already in burnout mode is at a fever pitch.
Currently working on my BSN, taking my evidence based practice class I’ve been asked to identify a practice problem in nursing and research for evidence that could help in changing practice for better patient outcomes. As I’m trying to narrow down my research, I feel like I’ve been asked to pick one problem out of a tumultuous, angry sea of problems. The problems in nursing are many. They point to greater problems in healthcare in general in the U.S. Like a seismograph is predicts earthquakes, the sense of impending doom amongst nurses in the U.S. is telling us that a tsunami of trouble is coming in healthcare. In fact we are already seeing it’s threatening waves.
With the mass of baby boomers in the U.S. who are elderly, have chronic disease and need ongoing healthcare, the health system in the U.S. doesn’t have enough nurses to provide the care this 50 million and growing population needs. Complications related to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and fall-related injuries lead to our hospitals being filled with elderly patients who often end up with hospital acquired infections and injuries . These infections and injuries are often traced to the lack of nurses.
Caring for our aging population in the hospital are nurses under the pressures of healthcare administration to fetch high patient satisfaction scores, prevent adverse patient outcomes, document every single interaction, intervention, assessment, plan, education (and more) of every patient he/she cares for, be highly educated, engaged, enthusiastic and all without the adequate staff, technology and resources they need in a busy 12 hour shift. We’re tired.
I know for me, I go to work every day praying that God will give me the wisdom and strength to care for my patients. I keep that my priority my entire shift. But throughout my shift, while my eyes are fixed on the prize of helping my patients heal and get out of the hospital better than when they came in, or die with dignity while they’re there, I’m being bombarded with complaints from patients who got oatmeal instead of cream of wheat and motions from family members who see me walking at a fast clip down the hall to retrieve a warm blanket for a cold patient and want me to come into their dad’s room cause he wants to go to the bathroom. I’m constantly being bombarded with a cacophony of call lights, vocera messages that there’s a doctor on the phone who wants to speak with me, written reminders at my computer from my manager to fix charting that was omitted from the previous shift, emails from IT, administrators, food services, the wound nurse, the fall prevention team, the engagement team, the joint leadership team… all wanting a piece of my attention and time.
If you’re a patient in the U.S. healthcare system, do as much as you can to advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Care for people around you- neighbors, friends. And if you’re in the hospital, pray for your nurse.
Nurses, we have to keep our focus on the what’s important. The system is in turmoil. A tsunami of patients with acute on chronic needs is coming our way, yes is already here. Let’s see the image of God in them, care for them with dignity and let all the attempts to put bandaids on the hemorrhage in our healthcare system not sway us from standing for what’s best for our health and the health of our patients. Sometimes that’s going to mean going to work praying, listening to an old lady tell you about her deceased husband, teaching a bilateral amputee how to slide on a board from his bed to his wheelchair, helping your fellow nurses and aides to help your incontinent, immobile patients get repositioned in bed so they don’t get a new pressure sore, and then after 13 long hours of a 12 hour shift walking back to your car praying for wisdom and strength to do it all over again the next day.