How to Love Your Nursing Job in Today’s Do-More-With-Less Healthcare Climate

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We hear it from nurses all the time: their organizations are asking them to do more with less. The greatest challenge is that the focus hasn’t shifted from patient satisfaction to productivity, it has expanded, making it imperative for organizations to achieve lofty quality, safety, and patient satisfaction metrics while keeping productivity high, which means fewer nurses and aides on the floor at any given time. Patient expectations are evolving, too; they’re expecting hotel-like service and amenities during their hospital stay.

For many nurses, it’s become a challenge to stay engaged in their work. They’re working harder than they’ve ever worked before but spending less time with patients and more time in front of a computer screen. They’re measured not by the number of lives they’ve touched and the immeasurable ways in which they’ve impacted those they serve, but by metrics and KPIs that can’t possibly capture it all. Just as soon as they get accustomed to a new normal of working leaner and smarter, they find out they need to work with less yet.

The result? Nurses are disengaging from their organizations. They find themselves sinking into helplessness as they realize that they don’t have a say in how their organizations are run. It’s getting easier and easier to take the low road, complaining about workload and leadership and the demands of the position. And it’s producing burned-out nurses at a record pace.

You’re Facing Two Options

Considering the climate of payor-driven healthcare in which organizations must run lean operations in order to make ends meet and continue to pay their staff, it’s easy to feel like it’s out of your hands.

But the truth is, you are accountable for your experience at work. You’re not just accountable, you do have options. And it’s not only possible but entirely likely that with a small shift in perspective, you can learn to love your nursing job again – no matter the climate.

While the climate of healthcare (not just your organization) is changing in a way that we may not have chosen ourselves, we still have options. We have the option to excel despite our circumstances or take the low road – complaining, judging, and feeling sorry for ourselves. Here’s how to take the high road consistently (and recover quickly when you land on the low road) so you can love your job as a life-saving nurse again.

How to Settle In on the High Road

Stay a Step Ahead of Change

Organizations that refuse to change go down like Blockbuster in a Netflix era. Stay abreast of changes in the industry; new technology; and cutting-edge research that impacts your profession. Invest in your own professional development, learning skills before they’re required of you and preparing yourself for changes before they occur. This not only lessens the shock and surprise when change comes but prepares you to lead the pack and demonstrate your value to the organization. It gives you control over your experience despite the change, which is critical to business success.

Know Your Role

When we expect to have input and make decisions in areas where we simply aren’t the decision-maker, frustration, resentment, and disengagement ensue. Cy Wakeman’s book Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace expands on the three roles in the organization (decision-maker, consultant, and informed) and how to settle into your role gracefully even when your role is to be informed.

Focus on Helping

By shifting your focus from what stinks to how you can contribute, you can improve your own experience at work (and improve work while you’re at it!). Consider how you can help the organization move forward with new processes, improve current processes, mentor new staff, and gain buy-in. When you see your coworkers struggling with change, ask what you can do to ease the burden.

Remember Your Skill Set

You’ve saved patients on the brink of death. You have comforted the mother of a stillborn baby and stood bedside while a mother took her last breath. You have the expertise and grit to function at the top of your license in any climate and any organization, alongside any coworker and under any leadership. Your training and experience have taught you to thrive in unpredictable, less-than-ideal situations. Access that grit and know you can be great despite your surroundings.

How to Recover When You Go Low

All of us know what the low road looks like because we’ve been there and we’ll be there again. When you step down – complain, judge, resist change, and feel sorry for yourself – be honest about your quick visit to the low road and simply move forward by asking yourself, “How can I better add value today?” It’s even okay to circle back with coworkers and say, “Hey, I’m not sure I was the best version of myself earlier. What I meant to say was, “Is there anything I can do to make this change easier for you?”

The healthcare climate is changing and nursing has evolved perhaps more than any other occupation in the last 20 years, but it is possible to love your job in this and any climate with the right perspective and a little grit.

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