August 18th, 2015                                           

What it Means to be a Nurse          by Mike Collado           

A colleague of mine was a nurse for quite some time. He enjoyed the profession very much but was forced to leave the industry due to a physical restraint. Another acquaintance of mine is currently a nurse and she has to work very sporadic schedules and shifts, especially during times when everyone else has holiday. She has told me stories of the pressure and stress that is involved with being a nurse. I came across some troubling facts about nursing and thought to myself, “What would drive someone to become a nurse?”
Here are some of those facts.

In Canada alone…

1.    Public sector nurses worked the equivalent of 11,400 full-time-equivalent positions in paid and unpaid
overtime in 2010.

2.    Twenty percent of nurses in the hospital sector leave their jobs annually, with a cost to the hospital estimated by some at $25,000 and by others at over $60,000 per nurse as a result of the transition.
3.    A generally accepted standard of safe hospital occupancy is 85%, yet most hospitals are working at a 100% or higher. The results of overcrowding include compromised care, high rates of hospital-acquired infections and unnecessary rates of hospital readmission.

There is a direct link between nurse working conditions and patient care conditions. Basically it shows that happy nurses, means healthier patients. Thorough research indicates[1] a direct correlation between inadequate nurse staffing and poor patient outcomes (increases in mortality rates, hospital-acquired infections, longer than expected length of hospital stay, etc.). In the end, over-workload can become dangerously unhealthy for nurses and patients.

Evidence shows that when nurse staffing levels match patient needs, lives are saved. It is not just the number of nurses per number of patients either. It is also the acquired skills of the nurse which match the patients’ needs.

All over the world there are issues with nurse staffing. For example, in Canada nurse staffing is one of the few areas in health care in which evidence is clearly ignored in decision making. More than 60% reported staffing ratios as problematic.

Without nurses the healthcare system does not exist. If the nurses are not properly skilled, they will not function. If they are not happy, they will not function.

Nursing is a profession that has high rates in absenteeism, burnout syndrome, and turnover. World-wide, nurses are becoming increasingly disgruntled and the problem is that there is a significant shortage of nurses and midwives worldwide. According to the WHO, the 6 million nurses and midwives in the European Region are not enough to meet current projected future needs. Statistics show that a demographic change in most of Europe is leading to an increasing number of older people, often needing long-term care, and a decreasing number of young people who may choose a nursing and/or midwifery career.

The reality spoken from nurses speaks loudly and clearly that ethical dissatisfaction is a core causer for leaving the industry. Here’s one testimony from an Australian nurse,

          “I worked the unit for four months before quitting. Looking back, I realize I was having ethical/moral distress in not being able to provide nursing care at the level my patients deserved. Going home and feeling horrible that half of my patients didn’t get bathed that day.”

An interesting case is Spain, where policy makers have made cuts in nursing staff due to lack of budget. As a result, Spain now has a deficit in nurses. (The European average is 759 nurses per 100,000 people. In Spain, it is currently 528 nurses per 100.000) [4] Although Spain is the leader in Europe when it comes to level of education for nurses, Spanish nurses have been forced to look to other European countries for work, i.e. Germany. Nurses that remain in Spain to work end up having the worst ratio of nurses per patient, which is 1 nurse per 12,7 patients. (Average for Europe is 1:8)[5]

Here at Arion, we see nurses as the backbone of any healthcare institution. We are now seeing scientific research to back up this statement. This is a wake-up call for everyone, especially to nurses themselves and to all those who have a say in nurse staffing and policy.

Nursing is a highly respected profession with ancient traditions. Respectable and respected; that is the essence of a nursing profession. There is some type of moral or ethical reward that is unbeknownst to those unwilling or incapable of doing such a job.

Do not take your nurse or nursing staff for granted. Give them a little love when you can.   

1.(Nursing Workload and Patient Care, p. 50. Based on Ontario Nurses’ Association, 2011-2012)

2. (McGillis Hall et al., 2006, as quoted in Nursing Workload and Patient Care, p. 32.)


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