Nursing as a profession has some problems that have not been addressed and pose a clear and present danger to nursing. They have been problems for a long time, but for many reasons, the solutions have stagnated.
Many nurses have attempted to support legislation to address these problems, and some have joined unions to affect change. Unfortunately, these problems still exist in the profession and can lead to further unsafe situations for patients and nurses alike.
In order to fix the problems, it is important to recognize them. When new nurses come into the profession, they need to know what we are trying to fix, so that they can be part of the solution, as well.
The most pressing issue in the nursing profession is staffing ratios. For those who don’t know, this is the practice in which one nurse is given far more patients than they can safely handle, making the assignment unsafe for both the nurse and the patient.
Unsafe staffing ratios occur for a number of reasons. One is simple: there are not enough nurses to go around, and the nurses on hand are left to carry the burden.
Another, more insidious reason, is that the facility doesn’t think it has the funds to hire more nurses. This creates a constant state of short staffing that is due to the facility’s refusal to spend money on much needed nursing support.
Whichever reason is in play, the result is the same: patients are in danger because nurses are spread too thin. Of all of the problems with the profession, this is the most dangerous to patients and nurses alike.
Recruiting and retention
Part of the short staffing issue has to do with not having enough nurses. This is because there are not enough nurses coming into the profession, and most of the ones who are don’t want to work at the bedside.
In addition, there is a shortage of nursing teachers that are qualified to teach RN classes, and this leads to a problem with getting nurses on the floor. It should also be noted that Magnet status hospitals will now require BSN prepared nurses, further exacerbating the need for nurses that may not be available.
Closely related to this problem is the retention of nurses that are already available. Many nurses leave the profession because they are unwilling to work in unsafe conditions.
Nurses leave due to unsafe staffing, injury, lack of managerial support, and burnout. If a high percentage of unwilling nurses returned, the shortage would definitely be impacted positively.
The image of the nurse
Finally, the image of the nurse is a true problem with the profession. Nurses are portrayed as secretaries of doctors, and not the independent professionals that they are.
The stereotypes of the sexy nurse, the battle axe, or the angelic nurse can keep new people from wanting to join the profession, especially men. Nurses have been skewed so much toward women that only a small percentage of men consider it a viable profession.
The image of the nurse hurts the profession because it impacts the public’s understanding of what a nurse does. When the public doesn’t know, their sympathy for our plight is greatly diminished.
The public is woefully ill-informed about what a nurse is, and when they don’t know, they can’t get behind out primary causes. When the public is not truly on our side, when they do not truly understand what we are up against, the profession runs the risk of degrading further and threatening patient safety.