For decades, news outlets and government bodies have been calling for solutions that might help combat the nursing shortage that exists throughout the United States
One of the largest reasons that doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and social workers are in short supply in today’s hospitals is employee turnover. Caregivers leave their jobs in hospitals is because they feel burnt out, overworked, unsatisfied with their jobs, and feel as though they can’t maintain a proper work-life balance.
A Look at the Problem
An alarming number of U.S. healthcare providers describe themselves as feeling burnt out or overworked. Though the path to a career in the healthcare industry is notoriously difficult, a recent survey indicated that 65 percent of tenured physicians say they are now more overworked than when their careers began, compared to 13 percent who argue the opposite.
Among other medical professionals, burnout is just as high. Nurses also experience high rates of workplace burnout, as do hospital administrators, and social workers and others in the caregiving professions.
Workers in other professions who work full time experience 39 percent less stress on average.. So why do people in the caring professions experience so much workplace burnout?
To start, for many in the helping professions, it can be hard to leave work at home. Those who work in caring professions often have a hard time not thinking about their patients. When you spend time in a profession that requires empathy, understanding, grief, and healing, it can be hard to separate your work life from your home life.
In many areas of the country, there are workplace shortage problems, meaning that healthcare staff often work long shifts, multiple days in a row. Leaving them unable to do any activities that are not work related, and unable to unwind after a long day of seeing patients.
In many states, mandatory overtime is required, meaning that the risk of burnout and dissatisfaction is much much higher. And in rural areas, the patient-to-staff ratio is remarkably high, meaning that nurses are both physically and emotionally burnt out.
What Are the Solutions?
There are a plethora of solutions that have been suggested, both to combat the nursing shortage and to improve employee satisfaction.
There have been efforts to recruit more nurses to return to school to become nurse educators, thus opening up more opportunities for those interested in completing BSN programs, whose admissions are capped. Thus increasing the pool of qualified candidates who could then fill today’s hospitals.
Others have suggested that healthcare providers need better on-boarding and mentorship programs to help them have a sense of community at their hospitals and to provide better incentivization for innovation and good work.
Others still have proposed that hospital administrators offer more flexible schedules that allow nurses to better accommodate their family lives outside of work — either by ending the practice of mandatory overtime or simply allowing them to have input of their own schedules.
While all of these are fine solutions that will likely have to be fixed over long periods of time, and likely by individual institutions, one of the main focuses ought to be a greater focus on creating a work environment where those in the caring professions are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Those in caring professions tend to be overworked not paid well enough for their efforts. “Work-life balance enables [individuals] to stay in the field longer and that ultimately serves our communities and the organizations that hire us,” writes Ashley-Marie Hanna, a Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno. “Less money has to go into training to accommodate turnover and the [individuals] employed are more skilled because they have been in the field longer and are able to better serve their clients.”
Until we can figure out a way to fix systemic issues in the industry, changing the way hospitals operate to improve employee happiness and morale must be a priority.