Why are Nurses Leaving the Bedside?

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by RN WRITER NC RN WRITER NC, ADN

Specializes in Nursing challenges, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia. Has 16 years experience.

Why I started a freelance writing business.

What are the options for nurses who want to leave the bedside?

Why are Nurses Leaving the Bedside?

I joined the nursing profession in 2006, which has been a Godsend for me in many ways! My income has doubled since I graduated. Also, there is a considerable market for nurses, so moving and finding work is no problem. Still, most of the nursing openings are because of Covid. In addition, many healthcare staff members are now weary of the environmental risk of the Covid 19 infection. We are also tired of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)! Yes, still wear shields even now. In addition, the staff is continually asked to work overtime due to the nursing staff shortage. I remember there were also many job openings before Covid. But I just don't understand where employers are coming from these days. Why do they not know that they are driving their staff away? Is it me, am I so blind that I cannot see beyond my own story?

Combining a nurse's work and that of the nurse aide is challenging. I now have many more responsibilities as a nurse. CNAs turn residents every two hours, keep them company if they need someone, and ensure everyone is safe and not at risk of falling. Add that to the current expectations by nurses for running errands, cleaning, and dumping the trash. On the other hand, nurses have paperwork, charting, filing, drawing blood, completing treatments, changing bandages, and calling the MD to report patient changes for new orders. In addition, they order supplies, do inventory, and clean and dump the trash. So, when the employer asks the nurse to also be the CNA, add all the above, which is more than double the usual workload.

Don't get me wrong, I am not afraid to work hard, but the grueling work required for nurses today is ridiculous. Ensuring that a patient is safe and doing alright is the main priority of a nurse in all environments. In addition, the predominant population of patients is geriatrics who are hard of hearing. Try to have a meaningful conversation with them while wearing a plastic gown, gloves, footies over your shoes, and two masks. Nurses are angels, but not saints!

What are the options for nurses who want to leave the bedside? Many nurses climb the corporate ladder and go into management. Teaching is always a path for nurses, but the pay is not great unless you have an advanced degree. Most options require returning to school, which means managing your family amidst school debt, homework, and working. My challenge includes all the above, so I have taken the leap of faith to start a new business.

Throughout the last two years, nurses have witnessed an environment fraught with healthcare risks to the people they care about. The Covid-19 pandemic has wiped away any notion of me wanting to make a difference or fix the healthcare problem. Back then during the pandemic, I watched co-workers and many I cared for become sick; some died from the contagious respiratory disease. Protective supplies were at an all-time low. Work conditions were scary, to say the least! As a result, all direct care personnel were advised to wear two masks, one very thick and tight, a KN95 or worse N95, and another nonbreathable plastic shield. While we complied, we worried about breathing back in the exhaled carbon dioxide trapped in the masks. One morning after working a night shift, I fell wearing the masks while moving too fast around a corner, just trying to get to the breakroom to punch out! I'm pretty sure that I was not getting enough oxygen. Then, I was forced to use crutches and a cane for almost four months before returning from light-duty nursing.

Make no mistake, bedside nurses have all been changed because of their experiences during the Covid pandemic. Many nurses, CNAs, and other healthcare providers are moving on due to the lingering trauma. New personnel will be needed. But hopefully, the pandemic will subside.

And me, I am slowly making my way out.

 

Freelance writer for Health articles and Blog posts. I contract with Health-related business and community organizations that give people education and connect them to research which is instrumental in improving the quality of care.

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11 Comment(s)

RNperdiem

RNperdiem, RN

Has 14 years experience. 4,542 Posts

Interesting article. One part that really rings true for me is the lack of ancillary staff. I think there is an even bigger shortage of nursing assistants, transporters, unit secretaries and housekeeping staff than ever. 

I feel the shortage in ICU were we are set up to be less dependent on ancillary staff. On the med-surg floors, the assignments are designed with the expectation that a unit secretary will handle the phone, the CNAs will assist with passing meal trays, getting patients to the bathroom and assisting with turns. Our CNAs are now pulling trash and linen bags for lack of housekeeping staff. 

Okami_CCRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 7 years experience. 845 Posts

It is difficult to point to one particular reason that is causing the exodus of staff nurses from hospitals. 

Work-Life Balance
Hospitals across the country have little respect for work-life balance, I get text messages at all hours of the day/night asking if I can come in or switch a shift to "balance the numbers". I am also expected to serve on a committee/council outside of my scheduled shifts as participation is tied to mid-year and yearly evaluations. 

Workplace Violence
It is no surprise that healthcare has one of the highest incidences of workplace violence. Patients and families are becoming more hostile, suspicious, and accusatory to staff at all levels. Patients/families are recording interactions and posting them on social media with little to no context and garnering views. 

Pay
Nurses have a disproportionate rate of professional education, responsibility and accountability to pay. Nursing pay varies widely from location to location and yet with inflation at an all time high it is incredibly difficult to make ends meet. 

Nurse to Patient Ratios
Gone are the days when patients with mild issues would be admitted, insurance regulations require strict criteria to be met prior to inpatient/observation admission. This means patients are now sicker than ever and nursing ratios have changed little for the majority of the country. Nurses on med/surg units report have a 1:8-10 ratio which is wildly unsafe. 

I do not like to use the term resilient/resiliency, it shifts the blame of burn out from the system to the individual. No amount of self care can overcome the systemic damage that the healthcare system has created. 

I'll get off my soapbox now!

RNperdiem

RNperdiem, RN

Has 14 years experience. 4,542 Posts

My unit has several people leaving. NP, CRNA and travel jobs are the most popular escape routes. 

RN WRITER NC, ADN

Specializes in Nursing challenges, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia. Has 16 years experience. 3 Articles; 20 Posts

Thanks for your comments, perhaps Long-

term care is getting hit harder than other specialties.  

Hoosier_RN, MSN

Specializes in dialysis. Has 29 years experience. 3,558 Posts

2 hours ago, RN WRITER NC said:

Thanks for your comments, perhaps Long-

term care is getting hit harder than other specialties.  

In my area, yes

kbrn2002, ADN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis. Has 20 years experience. 3,662 Posts

On 6/30/2022 at 4:24 PM, RN WRITER NC said:

Thanks for your comments, perhaps Long-

term care is getting hit harder than other specialties.  

 

On 6/30/2022 at 6:52 PM, Hoosier_RN said:

In my area, yes

Same. I left LTC about a month before COVID hit, my timing was accidental but couldn't have been better. I still have friends from there I keep in contact with and it's brutal. Despite offering large sign on bonuses and bumping starting pay considerably they still are having a difficult time attracting new staff that stays. Plus thanks to those big sign on bonuses and a large increase in starting wages without giving established staff similarly large raises they are losing even more of the experienced staff. 

samsn

samsn

Specializes in Med Surg/ Rehab. 1 Post

As a nurse manager, I can say that most of our staff left for two reasons. Money or easier work. My unit was converted from Rehab patients, to medicine which was a huge change in acuity. Overnight we were at 1:5 medicine ratios with no training or warning. Patients were assigned from some person in an office somewhere and we lost control of our bed board, room assignments, and ability to speak out against this practice. ER patients were brought up and dumped off with no report or warning and little to no work up done prior to arrival. Since many of our competitors were paying more hourly plus sign on bonuses, the staff left. There was no feeling of mutual respect or loyalty left. Moral was in the toilet. Safe harbor became the norm. 

vintagegal

vintagegal, BSN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 3 years experience. 248 Posts

After years of loyalty your lucky to get a 1-2% raise. I’ve had friends in fast food make 10% raises yearly.

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 30 years experience. 31,856 Posts

On 7/7/2022 at 12:21 AM, vintagegal said:

After years of loyalty your lucky to get a 1-2% raise. I’ve had friends in fast food make 10% raises yearly.

We got about 3% but I didn't get one because I'm "maxed out", meanwhile inflation raged on.

It does seem that workers in areas in high demand like fast food have seen their salaries and benefit packages up in response to labor shortages but nursing somehow hasn't. 

Although there have been times when we've gotten "market adjustments" due to demand, so I can't say never.  

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 30 years experience. 31,856 Posts

I know a lot of nurses burned out because of covid.  I knew a few nurses that retired instead of deal with it, or risk their health or bringing it home to elderly parents or immunocompromised family members.  

For me, while I made the highest income in 2020 and 2021 the overtime nearly burned me out and I haven't worked overtime this year yet.  Have to set boundaries.

I might also had that while nurses were concerned with getting too much C02 and reporting some symptoms or difficulty breathing, for normal healthy nurses getting enough oxygen with PPE is not an issue.  You don't hear much about that these days from covid nurses.  Maybe we're just so used to it by now?

For me, the main reason I would leave the bedside is the dreadful 6:1 ratio that seems to be more the norm these days.  Every day I say "I can't do this much longer".

 

Edited by Tweety

RN WRITER NC, ADN

Specializes in Nursing challenges, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia. Has 16 years experience. 3 Articles; 20 Posts

Completely understand, still looking at my options, despite starting a new business for freelance writing.  Anything that is successful, takes time and this is what I am realizing right now.