Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career but is surely challenging too. Nurses are at the heart of the medical system, and their contributions to the treatment and management of diseases cannot be overlooked. In fact, the recent pandemic has further told us how the shortage of nurses leads to medical errors, patient care failures and impacts the quality of care. Nurses work to help others and, in the meantime, have to compromise on their professional and personal needs, making it the most demanding aspect of this career.
The challenges the nurses face largely contribute to the decreasing number of individuals opting for this profession. As the number of new recruitments decreases, this adds more burden to the existing workforce and can cause burnout and stress. Thus, there is a need to take adequate measures to reduce the workload on the nurses so that this profession is made less challenging. With that being said, major challenges nurses face these days include the following.
Extensive duty, long duty hours, and less wages
Most nurses, such as the RNs, are given lower salaries compared to what they are asked to do. The only way to get better salaries is to upgrade their degree. Though online programs such as the RN to BSN or online MSN programs have made it a lot is easier, it is still an additional effort. Even then, several nurses with MSN consider their hourly or daily wages not worth the duty demands.
Nursing homes and hospitals must define working standards and regulations for nurses to promote better health care facilities. When nurses feel underpaid, considering the long and demanding shifts, it ultimately affects the quality of the care they are providing. Especially if they single-handedly have to manage multiple roles (in case of inadequate staffing) or work for extra shifts, feeling stressed and over-burdened becomes an unavoidable aspect.
Increased physical exertion
The long working hours require constantly standing on feet—a nurse’s duty demands more physical exertion than many other professions. These physical jobs include lifting patients, accompanying them to and from the bathroom, x-ray room, etc., and administering medicine. Though many pieces of equipment make these jobs easier, nurses still suffer from backaches, headaches, joint pains, shoulder injuries, and muscle cramps from standing and walking persistently.
Increased risk of developing life-threatening conditions
Nurses are constantly exposed to different disease-causing agents directly from affected patients or their used instruments and gears when working in a clinical setting. Thus, they are always at risk of developing various viral or bacterial infections and must be extra careful. This can be even more challenging as the nurses have to deal with the patients even before they are diagnosed, so the risk cannot be evaluated.
Since it is their duty and this happens every day, they may get used to it and often gets lax. This can result in chronic infections affecting their health, personal, or professional engagements.
Workplace harassment and violence
Workplace harassment and violence cases are on the rise, and nurses are not immune to them. In fact, we can say nursing is one of the most badly affected professions in terms of harassment and violence. According to “American Nurse Today,” 67% of total workplace violence and non-fatal injuries occurred in the health sector. The status and reputation of the health care facility, the department of work, and the type of patients determine the incidence of such events. For instance, workspace violence is more prevalent in departments like Psychic help, Emergency care, and long-term care.
Most violence cases are from the patients, their family members, and coworkers. Like in other fields, female nurses are also manipulated in workspaces for unethical and unprofessional favor by the co-employees. These can only be prevented by proper regulations, monitoring, and evaluation of the working staff.
Hospital politics is another form of workspace bullying. This may be in the form of the administration favoring one employee over the other, unnecessary feuds, taking credit for others’ work, and much more. If you are unsatisfied with the administration, there is no other way but to look for another job which is a trial in itself.
Keeping up with the advancing medical technologies
Advancement in technology has undoubtedly revolutionized the treatment of diseases but has also created problems for nurses. Since these advancements are taking place so rapidly, nurses must continually dig the internet and manuals to properly manage new instruments and machinery. This new information gathering must be handled with the existing workload and seems pretty overwhelming. Not having a natural aptitude for software and technology makes matters even worse. While this may seem easy to many, nurses who have been a part of this system for 20 to 30 years may consider it a burden added to their long working hours.
What actions can be taken to cope with these challenges?
There are a lot of challenges that come your way when you leave your house to work. The field of nursing is no different. In the broader perspective, you, as a resilient and proactive nurse, may not encounter all these challenges or do so less frequently. It is because, in most cases, the benefits outnumber the challenges. In addition to that, it is always better to be careful on your own and take some precautionary measures.
To ensure safety amidst infectious environments of a hospital, you should adopt the following measures: use protective gear, make personal care such as adequate food and rest your priority, and maintain personal hygiene. You need to be proactive and loud when it comes to harassment and bullying. Don’t allow the bullies to get one over you. Consult your management, and if you think they cannot protect your rights, many health care facilities do, better opt for them.
Caring amidst dangerous conditions and offering support even in the face of some of the toughest situations personally is what makes nursing both challenging and joyful. Nurses have been facing many challenges since the olden times and social disparity or strenuous working hours just scratch the surface. To address these challenges, there is a need for developing proper working duty guidelines for the nurses to make them feel protected and adequately paid.