Experienced Chief Executive Officer of Actriv Healthcare with a proven history of working in the staffing and recruiting industry.
Burnout has always been a problem in healthcare, but it is only now that the term is openly discussed. Nurses and medical professionals have been working long, stressful hours for years. Health and safety complications have been tracked. A lack of autonomy and support exacerbated these problems, but it was always accepted as ‘as is’. But things are changing. Nurses now feel more empowered to speak up about what is really going on in their workplace.
What happened? COVID-19. The pandemic accelerated the rate of burnout across all sectors. Employees have reached their breaking point. Covid-19 has initiated the Great Resignation and with the Great Resignation in the conversation, everything has come out into the open. Everyone shares their concerns about working conditions.
The paradigm shift has changed the way nurses accept workplace conditions and work-life harmony. Nurses have always been in a position of high risk of burnout and immediate health compromises. Systems are not designed to allow nurses to do their job well in the long run. Now these things are becoming unacceptable. Nurses are leaving their jobs — and patients’ beds — at a faster rate than we’ve seen in a long time.
But this doesn’t have to go on. Healthcare executives can take steps to ensure their nurses feel protected, happy, and valued. After all, they deserve it.
Nurses are undervalued and burned out.
Nurses are heroes, but these days they are rarely treated as such – and this treatment begins the moment a new nurse comes on the floor. There is no permanent position in nursing. New hires are held to the same expectations and standards as clinicians with years of experience. Often this is due to a shortage of nurses who have that experience. There is simply no room to involve these new hires in their careers, but the consequences are damaging. In the U.S, 72% of nurses burned out and 92% believe that Covid-19 has cut their careers short.
On top of the lack of staff and high demands, nurses work in a broken system. Technology has advanced, but the current processes nurses use have not caught up, and nurses don’t have enough support and time to repair these systems. They don’t have enough time to do their job within these systems!
With little to no support from healthcare leaders, most nurses feel undervalued. It should come as no surprise that nurses are leaving in droves.
What can managers and staff departments do?
These problems are not a phase in the healthcare sector. They’ve been growing for years and Covid-19 was a critical breaking point. As healthcare leaders look to the future, they must recognize the shift caused by the pandemic. Nurses no longer feel pressured to squash their grievances or power through tough times. There are other jobs available. Leaders in other industries understand what employees need to feel valued. Healthcare leaders need to follow suit before the nursing shortage grows even further.
Executive leaders can start building a psychological safety net for nurses. They should feel safe. During Covid-19, nurses discovered their safety net was full of holes. Clinicians did not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE). They worked long days and experienced exhaustion and chronic stress. Many did not feel they had access to quality training.
What executives may not know is that these safety nets can be repaired. The solutions are right in front of us.
Some companies have discovered that use contingent talent solutions can provide important resources for nursing teams. Talent solutions and employment agencies reduce the need for double shifts and offer flexibility. Working with these solutions is a simple process, but it can only begin when leaders look at them. They should care less about the bottom line and more about the patient’s top line. A healthy, positive environment is the foundation for a culture of appreciation.
In addition, leaders can get a signal from nurses. It’s time to change or remove systems who no longer work for nurses. Hawaii Pacific Health has a great overarching philosophy that guides these kinds of changes: They call it GROSS, and it stands for “get rid of stupid things.” “Dumb stuff” includes irrelevant documentation or laborious processes.
Nurses can easily spot ‘dumb stuff’ – they deal with it every day. When leaders take cues from nurses about what processes, paperwork, and other “dumb things” can be reduced, they experience a win-win situation. Processes are optimized and nurses feel that their voice matters.
Leaders must giving nurses a voice in their healthcare systems so that they feel empowered to communicate essential information. Listening creates an environment in which the culture supports their internal and emotional growth. Nurses in these environments are more likely to deliver a better patient outcome, so everyone benefits: nurses, patients, and the community at large.
Now is the time.
Gone are the days when we have to value the people who take care of all people. Leaders must take action now to change the environment in which their nurses work. The more leaders value nurses and find viable solutions to their problems, the better we can improve the healthcare system. We want nurses to work with empathy and energy for a better world.
It all starts with the way we treat them. As leaders, let’s take care of them more so that they can be successful, satisfied, and in a better position to empathize and care for the patients they serve. This way we can get nurses to work, also during the Great Discharge.