May 19, 2022

Majority of Nurses Feel They Are Misunderstood, Survey Reveals

Majority of  Nurses Feel They Are Misunderstood, Survey Reveals

A new survey from connectRN revealed that 9 out of 10 nurses feel like the general public really has no idea what it means to be a nurse. 

The survey, which gathered responses from 1,000 nurses, found that 9 in 10 nurses believe that most people have misconceptions about the work they actually do. As a former bedside nurse, I have to say that I fully support the results of the survey—I really don’t think most people can truly understand what actually goes on in an average shift for an RN. Heck, I went to nursing school and I still was shocked by what I had to do as a nurse. But my shock aside, here’s what else the survey found. 

Nursing: A Misunderstood Profession

The survey of nurses was conducted by connectRN—which is one of the new platforms designed to connect nurses and CNAs directly to hospitals that have open shifts—as a way to kick off National Nurses Week this week (from May 5-May 12). 

The major finding of the survey is that nurses feel like their job is misunderstood by the general public and that in many ways, they are expected to act like the “heroes” they were labeled as at the start of the pandemic. The problem, of course, is that not nurses, as heroic as they can be, are decidedly not superheroes or superhumans, and deserve to have adequate pay, a healthy work-life balance, and the ability to do their jobs safely in order to not just survive, but thrive as humans. 

Here’s what else the survey revealed that was a bit troubling: 

  • 47% of surveyed nurses reported that the biggest misconception about nurses is that their job is “easy” compared to other healthcare professionals.
  • 63% of the nurses survey still feel like they aren’t seen as “human” by patients and doctors.
  • 83% of nurses said they are under-recognized for their work. 
  • 63% of nurses feel the typical ways in which their employers have shown appreciation feel patronizing. (What? Healthcare professionals don’t actually enjoy “you rock” rocks for Nurses’ Appreciation Week?!) 

In fact, connectRN was so struck by the ridiculous gifts that nurses have received for Nurses’ Week, they even launched the both hilarious-yet-so sad #NursesWeakGifts campaign. With the campaign, nurses can submit their most absurd employer gifts on social media, tag connect RN, and the company will exchange their “weak” gift with something more thoughtful, like scented candles, gourmet chocolates, tea and mugs. 

You can watch some of the “weak” gifts already submitted by nurses on YouTube and follow connectRN on Instagram to submit your own gift with the hashtag #NursesWeakGifts.

Nurses around the country have already started to respond with their own weak gifts. There is everything from “holes” to hand sanitizer (um, pretty sure that should be included at the hospital already) to the most depressing gift of all: nothing. 

Source: @lauratat13/Instagram

Source: @catherinebdio/Instagram

Source: @baileyjoy83/Instagram

Why This Matters

Campaigns and findings like these from connectRN matter because being a nurse is more isolating than ever. Thanks to the isolation of the pandemic and the increased demands placed on nurses, it’s very easy to see how public perception of healthcare workers can be misguided at the moment. Patients have had limited visitors and nurses have been forced to work in unimaginable conditions, leading people to not actually see the full scope of what nurses are responsible for, which this survey’s findings support. 

“A single working day in the life of a nurse defies the imagination, from the long hours, to often life and death decisions or to just soothing a patient or family member,” commented connectRN CEO Ted Jeanloz. “Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, which would collapse without their extraordinary skills and caregiving.”

Not All Negative

Fortunately, not all of the survey’s findings were negative. For instance, a majority of nurses (63%) reported that they feel that the way nurses are portrayed in the media has actually improved to be more positive. 

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And a large majority of 66% of nurses described their career as rewarding. In fact, 41% of surveyed nurses even called their work “joyful,” which is downright reassuring. Although it would be unfair reporting to not also share that 47% of the nurses also described their work as “demanding.” 

However, let’s keep in mind that rewarding, joyful, and demanding are not necessarily at odds with each other—it’s definitely possible (and very probable) that nursing can be both rewarding and demanding at the same time. 

What Will the Future of Nursing Hold? 

As connectRN pointed out, surveys such as this one are important, because the nursing profession is at risk. According to a March 2022 report by the American Nurses Foundation, over 50% of RNs are actively planning to leave the nursing profession. 

There are 6.5 million RNs in the U.S., making nurses the single largest workforce in the nation and as we have all seen, a workforce that is downright essential to the fabric of society. In both health crises, and in periods of preventive health care, nurses are the face and hands of healthcare, carrying out what needs to be done and representing the entirety of healthcare to the patient and families that need it. 

It might seem like nurses feeling no one really understands the work they do isn’t that big of a deal in the long run, but the truth is, it does matter. It matters because nursing can feel like an isolated profession from the inside—nurses are often tasked with “to-dos” that must be completed on their own and some of the pressures that accompany those tasks include a lot of hidden work. For instance, double-checking orders, communicating with doctors, pharmacies, and patients, looking up medications, dealing with coworkers, and navigating workplace challenges are all forms of labor that aren’t necessarily outwardly visible. If patients, or even other healthcare workers, aren’t aware of the requirements that the job actually requires, it can be an additional burden to nurses who already feel they have too much to carry.

Additionally, if the public perception of nurses is misguided, it could lead to disillusion among new graduates who go into the profession without actually realizing what it will be like. Point being? We need nurses more than ever and that means telling our truth about what nursing is like, what nurses need in order to do their jobs, and how to best support nurses. 

So this week, during National Nurses’ Week, make it a point to get to know a nurse in your life and find out what they’re actually dealing with. Because listening to nurses is our only way forward. 

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Tell us: do you feel like no one understands your work as a nurse? What do you wish people knew more about nursing? 

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