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Mental Wellness: Where Do We Go From Here?

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After over a year into the pandemic we are still battling on the front lines. Our mental health as nurses must become a priority.

Specializes in ICU and Education. Has 15 years experience.

How can we turn the focus on Nurse Wellness?

Mental Wellness: Where Do We Go From Here?

I recently finished watching the Apple TV show "The Me You Don't See" about mental health issues throughout the world.  It really moved me and inspired me to think about what we can do for the nursing community.  We are now over a year into a pandemic that has affected everyone on the planet.  Nurses continue to battle as cases in the US are back on the rise despite an effective vaccine that is widely available.  I've seen nurses giving interviews about how frustrating it is to see the overwhelming suffering every time we are at work and yet people still don't believe that it is real.  How do we keep fighting when some people don't believe that the enemy exists?  

Keep Fighting

Don't get me wrong, there were problems in healthcare before COVID, however this pandemic has hastened the burnout among many nurses.  I thought maybe COVID could just burn the healthcare systems to the ground and we could start over, but that didn't happen.  The healthcare systems are coming out on top, and the staff is suffering.  We suffered short on staff, short on supplies, short on legitimate appreciation from the systems that we work for and to top it all off, half of the country doesn't believe what we are seeing every day.  

I don’t think that nursing itself is toxic; I think that the environments that we work in are.  It wasn’t always like this.  Hospitals are run like businesses, not places of healing.  The bottom line is all that matters, not how patients are actually cared for.  The people at the top are so out of touch with what is happening at the bedside as nurses are just trying to provide the best care they can with what little time they have.  Too much emphasis has been put on making it look like we provided good care without actually giving us time to provide good care.  This is not what we became nurses to do.  

We Must Speak Up

How do we finally speak up and demand that our voices are heard and that we are valued?  How do we put our mental health first and our well-being first without being made to feel as though we are not "team players"?  How do we change this cooperate machine that has taken over hospital systems?  Healthcare systems would rather tolerate the high cost of nurse turnover rather that fix the problem of nurse burnout.  We are not martyrs; we are human beings who are caring for other human beings. If we do not take care of ourselves nobody will.  Change must happen before things get worse.  We need to be the change that we want to see.  We need to make it happen for the future of nursing, for us, and for our patients.  It starts with us no longer accepting the unhealthy work environments and finding better places to work.  It starts with us no longer feeling guilty about prioritizing ourselves and our families.  We need to demand better or find it elsewhere.  

We Need to Begin Somewhere ...

I honestly don’t know how to begin but we need to begin somewhere.  I think it will only get worse before it gets better if we don’t start standing up to the powers that be.  I know we hesitate to say no to picking up shifts because we know they will be short without you, or staying late to help out, or staying at that toxic job because if you leave it will make it even worse for those that stay.  They expect us to do that at this point.  What if we all started saying no and prioritizing ourselves and safe boundaries?  What if we made them start dealing with the problem of staff retention and nurse burnout?  Imagine the possibilities of actually being able to work with safe staffing, having the equipment you needed to do your job and to actually really be able to provide the care that you know is needed?  It used to be like that and it can be like that again if we all work together.  

I graduated from nursing school in 2004 and obtained my Masters degree this summer. One day soon I hope to start teaching at a nursing school and have the chance to positively impact the lives of nursing students. Specializes in ICU and Education.

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4 Comment(s)

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

I can't stand it anymore. Saturday I'm going to go get a note from my nurse practitioner for a medical leave of absence due to stress. I might not work as a nurse again. Fortunately I am close to retirement and financially secure, although I will be on a very tight budget. Another Plus for me is that I have some other irons in the fire, and I can always teach skiing in the Winter and work in a nursery in the Summer.

CDungey

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 27 years experience.

Great heartfelt article that emphasizes such an important area that needs immediate remediation in healthcare! Thank you for stepping out and adding to the awareness. And yes, the environment’s that healthcare workers work in are extremely toxic, and hospitals are run as businesses whether for profit or non-profit.

 

Many of our leaders at the top have never worked in a hospital in any capacity other than C-Suite. This can also be seen with Board Members of Hospitals and Corporate Healthcare? How can that be? I can understand maybe a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), but even they should have a strong background in healthcare to understand what is needed, what to prioritize and what to fight for.

 

The same issue can apply to middle management and managers at the unit level. Sometimes we are seeing individuals placed in these positions and they are not capable of recognizing what is needed, how to prioritize, or how to effectively manage staff. How can they lead staff who are many times more knowledge than they are? I don’t mean to say there are not great managers and leaders out there. But it is a problem that adds to all you have brought up in your article.

 

I agree with you that boundaries need to be set and adhered to and saying NO to unreasonable requests is part of that.

 

How can nurses and healthcare workers survive day to day in such challenging times? I believe that solutions can be found on the fringes of healthcare to create better work environments, but these are long range ideas. What can we do in the here and now?

 

Maybe your article could be the start of a thread of Posts coming up with real specific ideas on how we at the unit level can create better workflow, throughput, and support. We could share original ideas not tried yet and those that some nurses and units have had success and failure at. Is there anyone out there that could/would speak to this?

 

PamtheNurse, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Education. Has 26 years experience.

BBear2102,

I do hear your plea.  Yet I must state the replies thus far to your article sum what I have found personally and in reading research.  The one reply is of someone who is going into education to make a difference, and ideally, that is possible.  However in reality pre-COVID nursing faculty working roughly one-third of the pay to a comparable hospital position and so short that schools did not admit nursing students (ANA, 2019).  Now during COVID, they are working as they were in ground classes PLUS virtual with “frozen wages” because of the increased need for nurses.  Data pre-COVID revealed average nursing faculty beginner lasted approximately 3 years (ANA, 2019), burnout is possibly a factor.  So the common hospital situation of the revolving door exodus and a lack of experienced and knowledgeable staff is extending into nursing education. 

I do not know of published data yet of the number of nurses leaving the occupation since COVID, however, the reply of the nurse that is taking a break and considering retirement is something I have been seeing and experiencing.  The reports of bias and efforts to oust older nurses despite the lack of experienced personnel are symptomatic of hospitals and education being run as businesses.

The third reply above is of questions and hope for answers.  I too am at that point.  I am active in research https://allnurses.com/research-t736280 to explore the relationship between nursing faculty and their organization to burnout so that further intervention may be suggested.

There was a reply to my posted article https://allnurses.com/are-you-someone-you-know-t736138/ that discussed the need for increased awareness and political activism associated with legal change.  Possibly that could be the direction to lead to the reality of us all working together toward a healthy workplace and safe places of patient healing?

Looking forward to other replies,

PamtheNurse

References

American Association of Colleges of Nursing [ANA]. (2019). Nursing faculty shortage [White sheet Fact sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/Nursing-Faculty-Shortage

American Association of Colleges of Nursing [ANA]. (2019). Special survey on vacant faculty positions for academic year 2018-2019. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/

American Association of Colleges of Nursing [ANA]. (2019). The impact of education on nursing practice [White Sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 19 years experience.

On 7/29/2021 at 7:17 AM, Emergent said:

I can't stand it anymore. Saturday I'm going to go get a note from my nurse practitioner for a medical leave of absence due to stress. I might not work as a nurse again. Fortunately I am close to retirement and financially secure, although I will be on a very tight budget. Another Plus for me is that I have some other irons in the fire, and I can always teach skiing in the Winter and work in a nursery in the Summer.

Great Proactive Step - You Got This!