3 Ways in Which Healthcare Facilities Can Support Nurses to Provide Better Care
Ever since Florence Nightingale’s work during the Crimean War, nurses have been recognized as providing a crucial role in healthcare. They frequently work directly with physicians to carry out treatments and exams, providing medications and supporting patients during their convalescence and rehabilitation. In addition, they play an important role in observing, assessing and recording patient’s health during illness to chart their progress. Nurses also play a key role in the preventative fields, educating people about their health and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Nursing is a fast paced career set in an ever-changing environment, striving to provide the best care possible for patients.
National Nurses Week takes place between May 6-12 this year and provides an opportunity to support nurses and thank them for all their hard work in ensuring quality patient care.
According to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS), the better the work environment is for nurses, the better patients perceive the care provided, making it very important to look after nurses’ well-being. It is not surprising to realize that if a nurse does not have adequate supplies available to carry out assigned tasks, has not received ongoing support and training and is more concerned about job security than working, they will not be in a position to provide excellent patient care. Yet nurse turnover rates are a major issue in the healthcare industry. According to Press Ganey, authors of a report looking into how nurses’ working environment impacts patient care, the nurse turnover rate is “one of the most disruptive problems facing healthcare systems and organizations.”
In this blog post to celebrate National Nurses Week, we go into three ways in which nurses can be supported to improve their working environment and, by extension, patient outcomes.
#1 Provide Proper Education and Ongoing Training
When someone decides to become a nurse, they dedicate themselves to a life of learning. Healthcare is a constantly changing environment, with new medicines and methodologies evolving all the time. It is important that nurses continue to receive ongoing training to ensure that they remain at the forefront of cutting edge medical care so that patients can benefit from the most up to date approaches, building on the basics of nursing.
Further education can also open up future career paths for a nurse. Nurses who choose to pursue a Master’s may find themselves working as a clinical nurse specialist, nurse educator, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist or nurse administrator.
Alongside academic study, nurses should attend regular training to ensure that their training remains current and they are aware of the most up to date best practices. Whenever a health care facility introduces new technology or tools, nurses should be trained in their use to make sure that no problems are caused by user error.
When a healthcare facility supports its nurses through further training, not only is it making a commitment to providing top quality patient care, it also provides a work environment that makes nurses feel valued, which generates loyalty to the workplace, helping to reduce staff turnover – which again, improves services.
#2 Prevent Nurse Fatigue
Ask anyone what they think is involved in being a nurse and the chances are high that they’re reply ‘long hours.’ Nurses work long shifts all week but don’t have the benefits of the kind of safeguards in place for other vocations that traditionally involve long hours.
However, many healthcare providers are now taking steps to reduce the impact of fatigue, which will also minimize the risk of avoidable errors. When a nurse is overtired, mistakes are more likely to happen, and nurses may forget to carry out a comprehensive hand-over or make sure that the right people know important details or they may simply be ill tempered.
A survey carried out in 2013 showed that over 25% of nurses reported that they had made a mistake because of fatigue, making this a serious issue.
In order to combat fatigue, the American Nurses Association (ANA) recommends a number of policies. These are:
- Restricting shift lengths to no more than 12 hours, with a total working week of no more than 40 hours
- Eliminate mandatory overtime
- Put in place regular rest breaks and encourage all staff to make sure of them
- Empower nurses to refuse assignments they believe will make them fatigued
- Reduce the number of consecutive night shifts for nurses working day and night shifts
- Give nurses access to somewhere to sleep or provide transportation if they are too tired to drive safely
Taking steps to eliminate nurse fatigue will not only reduce the number of preventable errors but also improve staff morale, leading to better care provision and productivity.
#3 Provide Mentorship for New Nurses
Starting out in your first job as a new nurse can be a daunting experience. It is a big transition when you leave an academic environment, dealing with hypothetical scenarios or gaining work experience with the support and guidance of your tutors. Going into your first role as a nurse with no support while you tackle potential life and death situations can be a major culture shock.
In addition, many new nurses report that bullying from older, established members of staff is a serious issue. One survey carried out in North Carolina found that out of 85 nurses in a community hospital, an incredible 95% had experienced some form of bullying, with 50% citing that they were still currently experiencing such lateral violence. Although they loved nursing, many struggled with their environment when they suffered verbal and/or non-verbal attacks, sabotage, intentional undermining and other personal attacks.
At a time when economic pressure is a serious consideration, healthcare facilities need to look at the easiest ways of reducing costs while maintaining a high standard of service. The cost of replacing a nurse runs between $42,000 – $64,000, with the turnover rate of newly qualified nurses as high as 60%. It is not difficult to see the financial impact that could be made by transforming the workplace to encourage new nurses to stay in their position.
Mentorship programs can make a huge difference to job satisfaction, incentivizing new nurses to be loyal to their employers. A mentor is chosen from the more senior staff to supervise, support and train a new qualified nurse. Not all senior staff are suited to this type of role. It requires someone with a nurturing personality, who is patient and can support a new recruit as they learn the skills required to put their learning into practice. This is why certain facilities, such as the Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA, ask for volunteers to be mentors and then provide support to the mentors in the form of training on subjects such as communication, professionalism and bullying. Both parties sign an agreement with measurable goals to be achieved over a specified period and at the end of the mentorship period, they are asked for their feedback on the program. Mentoring has had a very positive impact on staff satisfaction and retention at this facility.
Mentorship programs for nurses can be a rewarding, educational experience for everyone involved. It is expected that a new nurse will make mistakes as they adjust to their new responsibilities. In providing honest, constructive criticism that focuses on helping a new nurse do the right thing rather than highlighting their faults, new employees feel valued and that their employers are invested in seeing them succeed. Meanwhile, mentors benefit from seeing nursing through the eyes of a new recruit, perhaps gaining a reminder of why they entered the profession in the first place. Mentoring gives an opportunity to be a positive role model, to establish high standards within the industry and contribute towards creating a rewarding work environment that allows everyone to thrive – all of which contributes towards raising the standard of patient care.
Other Ways to Support Nurses
There are organizations that provide support for nurses, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), which offers a number of benefits for nurses such as the chance to stay abreast of recent developments in nursing, network and connect with other nurses and discounts on professional insurance and financial planning.
The ANA also publishes its own journal, American Nurse Today, with the accompanying website offering a wealth of resources to help nurses in their career.
On a personal level, there are a number of gestures someone can make to let a nurse know how grateful they are for their hard work. A bouquet of flowers, chocolates or even a simple handwritten card can really brighten someone’s day and show just how much we all love what nurses do and what a big difference they make to the patients in their care.
How are you going to show your appreciation for nurses during National Nurses Week? If you’re a nurse, what would you love your employers to do for you? Let us know in the comments.