Nursing is the ultimate helping profession. We do a little bit of everything: attending to physical needs, educating, assessing psychological issues, and making medical calls.
Nurses are a vital part of the healthcare system that, frankly, the establishment could not do without. That is why it is so distressing and so perplexing to know that the profession is in such disarray.
Unfortunately, there are problems that threaten the number of nurses that stay at the bedside, and this poses a clear and present danger to patients. Here are just a few of the problems that could have a negative impact on the future of nursing.
Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
Nurses are susceptible to both burnout and compassion fatigue. Each has their own symptoms, and they can certainly occur concurrently.
Burnout is marked by anger at manager, a resistance to coming into work, and exhaustion with the general work that a nurse is asked to do. Compassion fatigue has a more emotional complexion and is marked by crying, difficulty connecting, and poor coping mechanisms, such as absenteeism, sometimes alcoholism, and emotional lability.
Please note that these are thumbnail descriptions, and the symptoms overlap a great deal. The reason these are insidious problems in the future of nursing is that they are so prevalent.
They are difficult to diagnose, nurses are reluctant to admit them, and they are just considered “part of the job.” Unfortunately, this leads to many unhappy, ill coping nurses.
Unhappy nurses mean that they leave the bedside, and that is a horrible situation for patients. No one wants to work the floor because there is such a risk of burnout and compassion fatigue.
Of course, these reasons are not stated, but those are the reasons. Nurses run from the bedside to advanced practice nursing, teaching, and any other specialty in the profession that is far away from the bedside.
This is not a bad thing: nurses are needed there, too. However, it depletes the frontlines, and that is a terrible situation for nursing and patients.
Someone needs to fix the frontlines – likely through ratios – so that nurses stay. Burnout and compassion fatigue need to be addressed so that nurses can be happy and work the bedside, caring for the patients who need nurses most.
This brings us to the nursing shortage. Much has been made of this phenomenon, but the concept is misleading.
In fact, many nurses have been registered and are out there, available for work. The problem is that they don’t want to, and that is creating a shortage.
This is a huge problem for the future of nursing. Nursing as it exists presently is grueling work, and many nurses choose to pursue work outside of the profession.
Compassion fatigue, burnout, ratios, bullying, and the like are all reasons that trained nurses are running from the profession in droves. Therefore, the problem is not a shortfall of trained nurses – it is a shortfall of nurses who are willing to put up with the state of the profession as it stands.
If the profession does not address these issues, the future of nursing is rather bleak. Only by addressing these problems can we hope to bring healthy, happy nurses back to the bedside and make the healthcare experience safer for patients.