This Is The Reason Why Nurses Are Not “OK” Right Now
My friends are all leaving me, and I don’t blame them. Throughout the past six months, it seems as though every week I walk onto the unit, I hear that another one of my coworkers has put in their two weeks’ notice. The horribly sad part is that it feels like management just sees it as another job posting to start advertising for, but to the staff that has worked alongside them for years, it feels like a moral injury to see their position so easily replaceable. These nurses provide skills and bring character to the unit that no one else can replace, and although new nurses can bring their own gifts and talents, it is devastating seeing your department’s heartbeat start to change.
Not only are nurses working in a global pandemic pouring everything we have into helping patients, a new pandemic has hit healthcare workers specifically; it’s called burnout. Unfortunately many of the issues that contribute to this burnout have existed for decades, but COVID has multiplied their effects and are pushing nurses to their extreme limits.
Nurses constantly mention that the pay rate in relation to the risk remains one of the main reasons that drives them away from the bedside.
- Nurses haven’t received any hazard pay throughout this entire pandemic, and most have not received any raise larger than the expected cost of living increase.
- It feels insulting when hospital management will not offer any retention incentives, but will pay travelers 3 times the hourly wage to do the same job. It’s no wonder so many nurses are leaving their current place of employment and traveling for a short time, but until hospitals can start offering more incentive for nurses to stay, the problem will only continue to escalate.
Unsurprisingly, however, the most common reason nurses are leaving the bedside is the increased physical, emotional, and mental demands that have occurred within the past year. Regardless of the department, the pandemic has caused a decrease in staff, supplies, and support which has resulted in nurses picking up extra patients, shifts, and responsibilities. Our breaks have been replaced with extra patients, and our empathy has been replaced with exhausted hearts. Just in the past few weeks, I have heard nurses tell me these reasons they find nursing harder than ever.
- “The more I’m in the hospital, the more I hate the hospital”
- “It is hard to care for patients anymore”
- “I just can’t find it in me to care anymore. I try, but I just don’t care.”
- “It is just depressing watching people die all the time.”
- “I’m now doing three people’s jobs. Shouldn’t I get paid three people’s salaries?”
- “My body can’t handle it any more. I need a way out to save my physical body.”
- “I am starting to hate human kind.”
Gone are the days of the idyllic images of Florence and nurses walking around with neatly done hair and large smiles while ambulating their patient down the hallway. Now we have images of nurses in space suits with cracked lips due to dehydration, hair in dreads from the three masks that keep rubbing their heads raw, and bags we don’t even get discounts for recycling under our eyes from doing the work of three other people.
America is about to see a nursing shortage unlike anything else. Unless we see systemic change beyond what we could even imagine, this profession will endure an inevitable change. I do not place any blame on my coworkers who have chosen to pursue a different career, but for those of us that continue to work at the bedside, it often feels like so much effort to remain upbeat and positive about the nature of our profession.
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