For too many in nursing, the thrill is gone

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

It's generally understood that this sector faces a severe nursing shortage that's likely to worsen. Some observers are calling for higher wages as a possible remedy. Such action would surely help. But money alone is not going to make this problem disappear. That's because the real challenge goes beyond take-home pay.

Consider a nurse salary survey that Medscape just released. It found that nurses are earning $79,000 a year on average. Among the RNs who participated, 44% indicated they would prefer to be in a different line of work. If that doesn't shock you, it should. For it means that nearly half of this nation's nurses would rather be doing something else.

To be fair, it's not too hard to see why. Many nurses in this field put in long hours, work weekends and holidays, and must do so in extremely high-stress environments. In the case of directors of nursing, just keeping shifts filled can be a nightmarish challenge. Throw in pressures to maximize revenue, keep surveyors happy, develop staff, and ward off the occasional resident attack while improving care quality, and it's not fun.

These and other stressors can contribute to an insidious and largely overlooked problem facing many caregivers in long-term care: burnout. In my view, it's one of the driving forces behind that 44% finding.

If you are nurse and find that you are caring less about work, are having trouble staying motivated, are snapping at colleagues and find the facility a dreadful place, you have probably been bit by the burnout bug.

The good news is that all hope is not lost. In a recent newsletter, the Mayo Clinic offered these seven helpful suggestions to combat the dreaded “b” word:

  • Manage the stressors that abet job burnout
  • Evaluate your options
  • Adjust your attitude
  • Seek support
  • Assess your interests, skills and passions
  • Get some exercise
  • Get some sleep too

Yes, some of these recommendations may be easier said than done. But they are all worth the effort. And they just might help get your head back in the game, as you want it.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.