I am not a positive person by nature. Unlike naturally positive people, I have to work at it. I want to be positive. I feel better when I am positive, but sometimes the negative bug bites me and won't let go. I am a voracious reader of psychology and "self-help" books and articles. They give me insight into the human psyche and help me understand my trigger points.
One of my trigger points is feeling a loss of control. I am no dummy. I know that a higher power is really in control of my life, but He sometimes lets me think that he is in control just so he can have a good laugh. Anyway...When I am feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated at work, I feel a loss of control. I like the illusion that I have a handle on things. When I lose my grip, I tend to get morose and negative.
A fellow Allnurser called me on some things I said in the aforementioned article (thanks, Interleukin) and I have been thinking of what he said ever since. I am glad he commented because it made me clear my head and regroup.
I want to share with you the things I learned on this little journey of reflection. In nursing school, what we are lead to believe is that we will "practice nursing". I don't know about you, but I don't practice nursing...I do nursing, for 12 hours straight, often with no breaks.
For some reason, doctors, patients, and administration seem to hold nurses to a higher standard than others. By this, I mean that they seem to think that nurses should tolerate the abuse dished out on a regular basis. They should gulp it down and say "Thank you, sir, can I have some more?". Well, guess what? This nurse has had enough. I am not going to take it anymore. From now on, I am standing my ground. I am taking back my power.
According to Dictionary.com, the term "abuse" means to a. to use wrongly or improperly, b. to treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way, c. to speak insultingly, harshly and unjustly to or about, and d. bad or improper treatment. Do any of these definitions describe your work environment?
Nurses are feeling demoralized, frustrated, discouraged and repressed. Rules and policies put in place by administrators who have never set foot on a nursing floor are the norms. They have a very unrealistic view of the process of nursing as a whole. By their choice, they have put blinders on, plugging away for the almighty dollar, while their nursing staff, the CORE of the hospital, takes the brunt of patient dissatisfaction. Most nurses are compassionate, caring people. One reason they decided to be a nurse was to be on the front lines of patient care. Yet, every day, nurses leave the nursing profession citing overwhelming stress and emotional fatigue.
We try to be patient advocates. We try to set limits with difficult patients and demanding families, but the administration does not back us up. Instead, when complaints arise, it is often the nurse that the blame falls back on. As nurses, our plates are full, but each week seems to bring more and more responsibility and paperwork. The more we do, the more we are expected to do.
Co-workers and doctors often add to our stress level. As more nurses become disillusioned with nursing, it shows. We become disgruntled, short-tempered and discouraged. Once the morale of the unit starts to suffer, it is very difficult to correct. Dealing with doctors who are less than cordial often causes unrelenting stress. I have seen nurses cursed, backed in a corner, called names and screamed at in front of their peers. All in the name of health care. Not once, have I heard a physician called down for this type of behavior. Why do we tolerate this?
One reason may be because we feel that, as professionals, it would rock the boat if we complain or stand our ground. We are afraid of being labeled "troublemakers". Well, I have decided that from now on, I will not allow myself to be talked to or treated in a rude or obnoxious manner. I will stand up to the person who is verbally abusing me. I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Administrators, doctors, and peers are not the only ones who can dish out abuse. The people we are paid to take care of, our patients, are often the worst offenders. For whatever reason, patients, and often times, their family members, can be verbally and physically abusive. Demented patients have an out. They are confused. But patients who are not confused should not be allowed to physically assault health care staff, nor should they use threatening language. Yet, again, it is tolerated.
As nurses, we need to take back our power. We need to start saying "No" to abuse, "No" to unsafe nursing ratios. We need to document and fill out incident reports on every incident that makes us uncomfortable. That seems like a ton of extra paperwork, but it must be done. If you are a supervisor, you need to support your staff, plain and simple. Your staff will respect you for it. Do not allow patients and their families to mistreat you. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable. If they take it to administration, deal with it by handing management a letter detailing your side of the story (keep a copy for yourself). There are two sides to every story. More often than not, nurses are not allowed to share their point of view. Same with doctors. Stand your ground.
Nurses need to support their fellow nurses. Let them know that you've got their back. Encourage them. Lift them up. Acknowledge their positive attributes.
In 2007, a bill was placed before Congress. It is called the Registered Nurses Safe Staffing Act of 2007. Basically, if it passes, it would make it a law that hospitals would have to have safe staffing ratios or face big fines. Other nursing issues are also discussed in this bill. The American Nurses Association (ANA) supports this bill. If you are concerned about the future of nursing, write your congressman and ask for their vote on this issue.
One more thing: Stay Strong! 🙂