Nurses are vital. Nurses comprise the largest number of healthcare workers and have been rated the most trusted profession for fifteen years in a row! Despite the high regard from the general public, many practicing nurses are experiencing job dissatisfaction and are looking to move away from bedside nursing or out of the profession entirely.
The nursing profession needs to do a better job of keeping experienced nurses at the bedside. Nurses aren’t staying at the bedside for a plethora of reasons, and it’s impacting patient outcomes and the nursing profession as a whole.
Nursing by definition is the protection, promotion, and optimization of patient health! It is about prevention of illness and promotion of health, the facilitation of healing, alleviating suffering, and advocating for patients! How are nurses supposed to do that if we don’t care for patients?
Nurses and patients. Patients and nurses! They go together yet more, and more nurses are escaping to different and expanded roles that move them away from the bedside. The bedside is ground zero for nursing care yet nurses are leaving in droves. Some stay just long enough to leapfrog into a better position in the facility, advance their education, or exit the profession entirely.
So why the mass exodus of nurses from the bedside and why does it matter?
It takes years for a graduate nurse to make progress through the novice to the expert trajectory of nursing and part of achieving expert status is having the tutelage and expertise of experienced nurses as mentors. When nurses burnout, move on, upward, or out of the nursing profession, it’s a palpable loss felt by patients and the nursing profession as a whole. Nurses barely past novice status are assuming responsibility for training other nurses, and the gaps of missing information can be life altering. The patients are losing out on the best of nursing care when nurses leave staff nursing.
The following is a starter list of reasons:
Overwhelming Patient Assignment
Lack of Upward Mobility
Lack of Advocacy
Lack of Social Support
Lack of Appreciation
How can we keep educated and experienced nurses at the bedside of patients?
There is no short or easy answer. When a nurse advances their education by seeking a BSN or beyond, it is usually synonymous with a “ticket out.” It will take extraordinary and collaborative effort to empower the nursing profession to advocate for all nurses including the staff nurse.
Staff or bedside nurses exert a powerful influence on patient outcomes. However, they are often so overwhelmed and overworked that they do not envision themselves as leaders.
Bedside nursing is ground zero for patient care, and this is where a nurse can have the most impact. The quality of attention and care, which is directly influenced by experience, affects nosocomial infections, falls, pressure ulcers and just about everything else. Bedside nurses impact the length and quality of the patient experience. It is imperative that measures are taken to retain experienced nurses at the bedside.
Ways to Improve the Bedside Nursing Experience
Nurses need to work together across employment and role divides, to collaborate and advocate for their colleagues and their profession. Obtaining a BSN should not be considered a “ticket out” but maybe a stepping stone towards a position in a Magnet Facility with better nursing representation and regard.
Nurses can begin to improve their workplace environments by joining a professional organization.
Nurses who seek advanced education such as RN-BSN programs can learn how to speak and represent nursing effectively. Nurses need to learn how to “speak to be heard” as individuals and as representatives of the profession of nursing. Nurses need to use their collective voices for change, not to complain. Nurses need to learn to extend the same caring and compassion towards each other as they do to their patients.
Nurses collectively can advocate for shorter working hours, better pay, more respect, more thoughtful and productive leadership style.
These changes may take time in coming, but changes can occur immediately with a dedication to practicing stellar self-care and extending that compassion towards co workers. When nurses unite, they are a powerful entity. The changes may not occur overnight, but with consistent advocacy and demand for excellence, bedside nursing may be the much-sought position in nursing’s future.