Nursing Staff Perspectives: Key Takeaways from the Director of Nursing Conference
Advice, Aged Care, Healthcare

Nursing Staff Perspectives: Key Takeaways from the Director of Nursing Conference

The Director of Nursing Conference 2022 enabled us to gain a better understanding of a nursing staff job and insights on:

  • What nurses are experiencing and current challenges
  • What they are looking for in a job
  • Actions nursing facilities can take to retain and boost morale

Read on to find out our key takeaways from the conference.

What nursing staff are experiencing

Lack of staff

Imagine having to care for up to 25 residents during the peak of the pandemic. That is a lot to handle – from feeding to bathing and getting them out for walks, and this is not all.

While staffing shortages have been a persistent issue even before the pandemic, COVID-19 has amplified the effects of nursing shortage. Thus, remaining nurses are taking on more shifts or overseeing more residents.

While this may serve well as a temporary solution, it is not sustainable. Nurses are feeling the effects of insufficient staffing and it’s tiring them out.

Besides interaction with residents, nursing staff are expected to maintain healthcare records for doctors, nurses and next shift CNAs. With an increased number of residents to care for, it implies a longer documentation period and lesser time spent with them.

In the long run, the adverse working conditions are causing nurses to feel burnout. Implications such as higher turnover rates, increased mortality and lower quality of care are the reality. .

Feeling undervalued

Albeit having a rewarding job, nursing staff are echoing sentiments of feeling undervalued due to the increased workload.

Lack of involvement can also cause nurses to feel undervalued. This occurs when nurses do not have much power to speak up for themselves. It could also happen when nurses are unable to play a part in deciding the facility’s direction.

In some cases, lack of provision of proper personal protective equipment is another sign of undervaluing. This results in nurses feeling unappreciated as their safety was not of top priority.

Mental health issues are common in nurses.

Mental health issues

Another prominent issue commonly faced by nurses are mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, distress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Depression arises due to nurses working in a high-risk environment, where “those living in nursing homes [are] at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19”. It is no wonder why nurses fear being the source of infection who spreads the virus to their families.

At the height of COVID-19, nurses witnessed a greater number of people who they interacted with pass away. This can negatively impact their mental health if they cannot overcome the disbelief, and may have a trickling effect on the quality of care.

Apart from residents’ death, verbal abuse by residents and visiting family members can also serve as PTSD triggers for nurses.

What nursing staff are looking for

They want to be heard and seen

Nurses are just like any of us. They have feelings and want to be understood and heard.

At a basic minimum, nursing homes should ensure the safety of nurses by providing them with the necessary equipment.

Secondly, involving nurses in facility operations can also provide your facility management with a well-rounded view of what facility staff are experiencing. This can allow your management to make the necessary changes to upgrade your institution service. This can be through engagement tools which get feedback and enable you to act on the results.

Given the ongoing staffing crisis, employee engagement becomes ever so important. With increased employee engagement, there is greater staff satisfaction and retention rates.

They want flexibility

The current landscape of the nursing profession is restrictive – there is limited scheduling, and a lot of the workload falls on their shoulders.

Now, nursing staff are expecting greater flexibility after gleaning the importance of it from the pandemic.

They are hoping to have more freedom when it comes to duty rostering. This way, it reduces the possibility of subjecting nurses to the uncertainty of variability.

Research findings also suggest workplace flexibility can help to reduce the odds of healthcare workers burnout. This is possible as nurses have more time to attend to their needs and take a breather from their job.

They want growth opportunities

One-third of nurses are quitting their jobs with lacking career advancement and training opportunities as one of the reasons.

While the nursing career can be challenging at times, they become accustomed to it over time. Hence, nurses perceive their roles to be rewarding yet mundane.

This is why they are looking for career advancement opportunities and chances to upskill and relearn.

By providing nurses with refresher training, it takes the burden of self-learning off. Furthermore, this helps facilities increase their capabilities, and also retains nurses who are motivated by career development.

Despite well intentions, nursing facilities should not overburden their nursing staff with upskilling and relearning programmes.

What can nursing facilities do?

Satisfied employees don’t magically appear. To ‘create’ such employees, it is important to create good employee experience.

Nursing facilities can increase employee engagement by providing nurses emotional support.

Provide emotional support

Listening to nurses’ needs is a great way to start.

During the pandemic, nurses have witnessed high volumes of deaths. While they can turn to their loved ones for comfort, a barrier exists as their families cannot fully empathize with what has happened to them. Therefore, they are left alone to internalize it themselves.

In turn, this becomes an emotional toll for the nurses. Thus, nursing facilities can employ tools such as surveys and engagement measures to gauge nursing staff emotional stress.

Based on the results, nursing institutions can provide the necessary support for nurses and guide them out of emotional trauma.

Automating manual effort

Beyond caring for residents, nurses spend a huge portion of their time documenting patients’ health records and administrative tasks. This additional burden can result in stress and increase the likelihood of burnout.

To reduce these unnecessary burdens, nursing institutions can implement relevant software such as visitor management systems to automate manual effort.

This initiative can help nurses spare more time to spend with their residents and hence increases the quality of care.

Budgeting for more nursing staff and/or equipment

Although we are facing a gloomy nursing labor market, nursing facilities should still create plans for additional nursing staff and equipment.

With sufficient staffing, nursing institutions will have greater capability to provide nurses with flexible working arrangements.

For instance, nursing facilities can hire infection prevention (IP) nurses to oversee overall infection control procedures. Nursing institutions can also allocate IP nurses to more manual tasks.

This way, nursing aides in the facilities can spend more time with their residents and ensure they are given the proper care.

Additionally, facilities should also look into curating training programmes for nurses to equip them with the relevant knowledge and skills. As a result, nurses are more aware of their roles and are capable of delivering a higher quality outcome.

An overview of the takeaways from DoN CAHF.

In summary

The pandemic has been a challenging phase for the nursing industry. Yet a lot of nurses are still carrying on their passion and serving the residents.

Our deepened understanding of nursing staff experience is definitely a step forward in helping them create a better employee experience. Now the baton is passed on to the nursing facilities to take action.

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