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July 1, 2017

7 Important Elements of an Inspiring Nursing Career

The Nursing Struggle is Real

Whether you've newly graduated, passed the NLCEX, and you're ready for your first few shifts, or you've already put in many years on the floor, the stress of being a nurse is real. Here are some reflections and research behind why some nurses struggle in their jobs (nurse burnout, anyone?). We'll also discuss what nurses can do to mitigate these stressors and support each other in not only caring for their patients, but also one another.

Remember, you’re not alone if you're feeling stressed out. Here are some real-life situations and challenges from newly raduated nurses that you may relate to:

  • “I graduated in May, passed the boards in June, and started working in a high-level SICU as a new grad. I have never been so overwhelmed in my life.”

  • “I'm a new nurse going on six months on a med/surg floor, and I still feel overwhelmed. We use a team nursing model where we have 10 patients, five assigned to the RNs and the other five assigned to the LVNs. However, I'm still in charge of all ten. Some nights I only have five patients. I love nursing, but sometimes I want to quit because it's just too much work.”

  • “I started in IMCU on May 19th and passed my boards on June 30th. I'm working 7p to 7a and 7a to 7p, flipping every other week. I experience so many shifts where I just want don't ever want to come back! It's an awful feeling, especially since being an RN is all I ever wanted. With all the paperwork, I don't think I give my patients nearly the time they need. Does anyone else feel that way, and will it get better?”

  • “I graduated in May with my RN and got my license in July. I'm working on a med/surg (ortho-neuro) floor at nights but I'm having some serious problems. First, my department is very cliquey and I'm not dealing with that well. Second, have confidence issues and need some advice on how to improve on that. Also, I just had a patient refuse my care, causing me to doubt all of this. I need some guidance.”

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Reasons Why New Nurses Struggle with Job Satisfaction

According to American Nurse Today, there are five main reasons that nurses struggle to stay happy and committed to their jobs.

  • Heavy workloads

  • Inability to ensure patient safety

  • Disillusionment about scheduling

  • Lack of autonomous practice

  • Lack of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards

Nurses also report low salaries as part of the problem in committing to staying in a job, but acknowledge this factor as being less important than the rewards of the work, adequate staffing, and dissatisfactory scheduling.

But not all hope is lost! Remember why you became a nurse in the first place and spent all those hours studying, learning, and dreaming about changing and caring for the lives of others.

Ways to relieve your own stress and support fellow nurses

Whether you’re an RN or nursing manager, there is a lot within your control that you can do to both relieve your own stress and offer support for your coworkers.

These seven techniques will help you build a foundation and support system for navigating your career, whether you're a new grad or a seasoned RN:

  1. Carefully schedule time away from the patient to review and understand clinical judgments. Removing yourself from the patient will help you be more logical about your approach to issues and problems as they come up. Nursing is an inherently emotional field, and emotions do not always produce the best solution to a problem.

  2. Offer emotional support, especially during highly stressful times (errors, angry patients, shame from colleagues). This can go a long way. Be sincere, thoughtful, and listen. Sometimes people just need someone to vent to and all you need to do is be the ear.

  3. Be transparent and upfront about shift scheduling. For managers and new nurses, getting on the same page as far as what your schedule and workload will look like can decrease some of the “schedule disillusionment” factor.

  4. Help new grad nurses get to know critical department personnel. Make sure that new nurses know who they will need to interact with on a daily (or even hourly) basis and that they are actively growing these relationships.

  5. Lower your professional guard and socialize informally. An article by Medscape on the effects of social support in the nursing workplace defines social support as, “the assistance and protection given to others, especially individuals. Assistance may be tangible or intangible and protection involved shielding others from the adverse effects of life stress.” In other words, there are many ways to support a nurse who is struggling with the stress of their job. Simply caring and being a friend to that individual is a great place to begin.

  6. Check in with new grad nurses for bedside burnout. This one is for nurse managers. Keep your eyes on the lookout for nurses who may be lacking compassion and bedside manner with their patients. Address the behavior, but don’t punish them. Try to approach the behavior correction from a place of care and concern for your new nurse.

  7. Try to stay conscious of generational differences in work ethics and approach. It’s no secret that there are massive differences in worldview between generations, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Nurses from any generation have a lot to offer and learn from each other. However, it is important to keep in mind that Gen Y nurses are going to have a vastly different approach to their work and patient care than Baby Boomers. Remember, a little empathy and compassion go a long way in supporting your coworkers and creating the nursing workplace you’ve dreamed of.

See open RN positions near you.

Nurses, how do you care for each other and mediate your own stress within the workplace. Reviewing hospitals is a great way to help out your fellow nurses by giving them reliable reviews of workplaces and their cultures. 

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