Experienced Chief Executive Officer of Actriv Healthcare with a demonstrated history of working in the staffing and recruiting industry.
Burnout has always been an issue in health care—but only now is the term being talked about openly. Nurses and medical professionals have been working long, stressful hours for years. Health and safety complications have followed. A lack of autonomy and support exacerbated these problems, but it was always accepted as “the way it is.” But things are changing. Nurses are now feeling more empowered to speak out about what is really going on in their workplaces.
What happened? Covid-19. The pandemic accelerated the rate of burnout in all industries. Workers have reached their breaking points. Covid-19 initiated the Great Resignation, and with the Great Resignation in the conversation, everything is out in the open. Everyone is sharing their concerns about workplace conditions.
The paradigm shift has changed how nurses accept workplace conditions and work-life harmony. Nurses have always been in a position with high risk of burnout and direct compromises to health. Systems are not created in a way that empowers nurses to do their jobs well over the long-term. Now, these things are becoming unacceptable. Nurses are leaving their jobs—and patients’ bedsides—at higher rates than we have seen in a long time.
But this doesn’t have to continue. Health care leaders can take steps to ensure that their nurses feel protected, happy and appreciated. After all, they deserve it.
Nurses are underappreciated and burned out.
Nurses are heroes, but today, they are rarely treated as such—and this treatment begins the moment a new nurse joins the floor. There is no tenure system in nursing. New hires are held to the same expectations and standards as clinicians who have years of experience. Often, this is due to a shortage of nurses who have that experience. There is simply no room to usher these new hires into their careers, but the consequences are harmful. In the U.S., 72% of nurses are burnt out, and 92% believe that Covid-19 has cut their careers short.
On top of the lack of staff and the high demands, nurses are working 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 fix these systems. They don’t have enough time to do their jobs within these systems!
With little to no support from health care leaders, most nurses feel underappreciated. It should be no surprise that nurses are leaving en masse.
What can executive leaders and staffing departments do?
These problems are not a phase in the health care industry. They have been growing for years, and Covid-19 was a pivotal breaking point. Now, as health care leaders look to the future, they must acknowledge the shift caused by the pandemic. Nurses no longer feel pressured to squash their grievances or power through tough times. Other jobs are available. Leaders in other industries understand what workers need to feel appreciated. Health care leaders must follow suit before the nursing shortage becomes even more critical.
Executive leaders can start by building a psychological safety net for nurses. They need to feel safe. During Covid-19, nurses found that their safety net was filled with holes. Clinicians didn’t have enough personal protective equipment (PPE). They were working long hours and experiencing exhaustion and chronic stress. Many didn’t feel like they had access to quality training.
What executives might not know is that these safety nets can be repaired. The solutions are right in front of us.
Some companies have found that leveraging contingent talent solutions can offer key resources for nursing teams. Talent solutions and staffing agencies reduce the need for double shifts and offer flexibility. Working with these solutions is a simple process, but it can begin only when leaders look into them. They need to 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.
Additionally, leaders can take a cue from nurses. It’s time to change or get rid of systems that aren’t working for nurses any longer. Hawaii Pacific Health has a great overarching philosophy that guides this type of change: They call it G.R.O.S.S., and it stands for “get rid of stupid stuff.” “Stupid stuff” includes irrelevant documentation or arduous processes.
Nurses can spot “stupid stuff” easily—they deal with it every day. When leaders take cues from nurses on what processes, paperwork and other “stupid stuff” can be reduced, they experience a win-win. Processes are optimized and nurses feel like their voices matter.
Leaders must give nurses a voice in their health care systems so they can feel empowered to communicate vital 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.
The time is now.
It’s past the time when we should start appreciating the people who take care of all people. Leaders must take action now to change the environments where their nurses work. The more that leaders appreciate nurses and find viable solutions to their problems, the better we can improve the health care system. We want nurses to rally to the cause of making the world a better place with empathy and energy.
It all starts with the way we treat them. As leaders, let’s care more for them so they can be successful, fulfilled and in a better position to deliver empathy and care to the patients they serve. This is how we can get nurses to stick around, even during the Great Resignation.