5 Nursing Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Nurses play one of the most vital roles in the delivery of care within the healthcare industry.
Although it can be an incredibly rewarding career, nursing challenges are common and make it one of the most demanding professions out there.
Caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable and offering support are some of the fundamental tenants of nursing. But we recognise that nurses also need support to be able to continue doing what they do.
Since nurses play such a fundamental role in our health and wellbeing, we want to explore some of the daily nursing challenges they face and offer some tips to overcoming them.
1. Overworked (and underpaid)
Many nurses often feel that their pay/hourly rates are too low considering what is being asked of them.
Both nursing homes and hospitals must comply with industry standards and regulations around nurse-to-patient ratios.
If you find yourself working longer than you’re supposed to, or single-handedly doing the work of two nurses, it can affect the quality of care you are providing.
This challenge can also put your own health at risk as exhaustion can set in quickly.
Top Tip: Communication is key.
Healthcare facilities and care providers should be implementing systems and practices to support their nurses – so let them know.
Employers should be supporting their nurses by creating a positive working environment. They should reward you for the work you are doing.
Healthy workplace = healthy you. Remember to use your one-hour break to rest and refuel. Actively promote health and safety practices within your organisation.
You can also negotiate improvements and pay rates with your employer. In doing so you are helping create a workplace culture where nursing staff can raise concerns without fear of reprisal.
2. Busy or demanding shifts
Some nurses find that one of their biggest nursing challenges is that their workplace is unsafe and patient care is often compromised.
For example, you are regularly witnessing inadequate delivery of care within a home or hospital you work at. This not only negatively affects the nurse both in terms of her performance on shift but also her well-being, leading to stress building and a reluctance to return to work.
Top Tip: Use your voice.
Your first point of contact should be the line manager. In this instance do not walk out of a shift, as this will only escalate the problem and place patients in a more vulnerable position.
Workplace hazards are not uncommon for nurses, so we encourage you to be vigilant and aware.
Work alongside your fellow staff members, RGN’s, RMN’s, Carers and line managers to look out for each other.
Engage with and speak to your RCN senior officer if you do feel an issue must be dealt with and you are not being heard by your employer or organisation. Remember employers have a duty of care.
3. Shift cancellations
If you are an independent nurse, you may find yourself in situations where you have been notified last minute that your shift has been cancelled.
This can be due to a number of reasons, including cover being found elsewhere, or internal staff filling the shift.
This can be extremely frustrating as it may affect your plans and expectations of work.
Top Tip: Build relationships.
Build a strong rapport with the employer so that you are able to communicate frustrations in these instances as well as minimise the chance of this happening.
Once they know you, the trust and connection has been built and these instances should lessen. Be positive and remember the benefits of your independent lifestyle.
Although this may happen once in a while, you also gain the freedom and flexibility of working as and when you wish around your other commitments.
Where you may miss out of work one night, you can make up for perhaps later that week.
4. Stress and professional burnout
Long hours and little sleep can affect each individual differently. Nurses often experience burnout and fatigue caused by working long hours and sometimes back to back shifts.
This can also result in some cases, in them making medical mistakes whilst on duty. This is one of the nursing challenges we definitely want to avoid as it can lead to being unable to work or even depression.
Top Tip: Breathe.
Make sure before your working week you are well rested, getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep per day, eating regular meals and taking some well-deserved time for yourself.
Go for walks to clear your mind. Ensure a good and healthy work/life balance by making time for friends and family and scheduling events on your days off to get you through the work week and those long shifts.
First and foremost, nurses must be taking care of themselves! For some, switching out of a full-time position is a lifestyle switch that helps them to continue to work but on their own terms and at their own pace, thus avoiding burnout.
The RCN has an online toolkit to support you and allow you to compartmentalise your time.
5. Feeling alone and isolated during your working week
If you are an independent or agency nurse it is easy to feel isolated and like the ‘outsider’ when moving from shift-to-shift and home-to-home, where perhaps long term permanent staff are already in place.
This can be disheartening and presents many challenges to nurses which can in turn, negatively impact you and your shifts.
Top Tip: Engage and share.
Sharing your experiences and thoughts is not only a therapeutic release, but can allow others who empathise and share solid strategies with you.
Do also continue to make an effort to engage with your new colleagues on your shifts and let your positive nature shine through.
Nursing challenges can crop up in any environment, whether you’re permanent staff or work through an agency. But with the right strategies and a positive outlook, many of these challenges can be overcome.
For some, developing strong relationships to make positive changes at a permanent position is the answer. For others, temporary work gives them the flexibility and sense of control that helps them avoid burnout.
It’s different for every nurse and it’s important to find what strategies and lifestyle work for you.