By: Tiffany Boswell, BSN, RN
My Journal Entry: March 2007
I continued on despite my feelings I strived to be the best employee, best co-worker, just complete excellence in all my positions , because I had a growing desire to make it better. I call it purpose. The very problems I saw as a nursing student, still remained, yet ballooned to new levels once I entered the workforce as a RN. I worked in many facilities after my critical care residency and 1st job offer due to the wonderful world of travel nursing. Embarking upon traveling nursing allowed me to see new places and meet new beautiful people, but one thing always remained: no matter where I went, there were more employees complaining about their job than those that truly adored it.
I would sit and observe employees; watching how extremely desensitized they were to how unhealthy their own work environments really are: with heavy patient care loads from disorganized methods for assigning patients to nurses, little to no uninterrupted breaks with 12-hour shifts or any shift for that matter, not much emphasis on vacation or mental health days (stressful environments, death and dying), disconcerting relationships between employees and the Leadership team, discourteous relationships between the interdisciplinary team, the ever-changing culture of the nurse-patient relationship, too much focus on recruitment and not enough on retention and engagement of current employees, unsatisfactory compensation throughout the organization, starting new initiatives for patient experiences with little or no regard to the input of the front line who has to carry them out, are just a few of the systematic dysfunctions seen throughout my time in this profession.
I started to internalize this negativity, and it began its mental toll on my life. As a Charge Nurse I would come home so exhausted, yet having problems sleeping every single day, wondering how I can I love a job, that I have so many ethical issues with? I was devastated to see this many nurses this unhappy, overwhelmed, and over-worked. I am constantly, thinking how can I help? How can I find creative ways to infuse more positivity, appreciation and effective change in my immediate units and house-wide throughout the organization? How can I effectively satisfy Administration to keep the ER emptied out but also watch my nurses in frustration and tears from being behind in caring for their patient teams, yet I am supposed to push another patient on them? I spent most of my days helping each of my nurses in every way I could, I carried full teams of patients while still making sure the unit ran efficiently, making sure the patient experience was nothing short of excellence and fulfilling my Charge duties for the day. These are the never-ending questions and experiences that consumed my life every single day, even multiple times a day. I started to feel insane.
I know with all my heart that our patients and communities are of utmost importance to the nursing profession but I believe with every inch of my soul that patients and their families will never love a hospital until the employees love it first. At the heart of it all, who is making sure the employees, the front-line is cherished in a way that feeds their soul and ignites their own professional journey to strive to bring the organization’s mission and values to life in every interaction they have throughout their workday? I begin to feel personally responsible. I started to devote myself to the advocacy of healthy work environments, attending conferences from Sigma Theta Tau International (Honor Society of Nursing), also by creating my own hand-made thank cards for my current facility and also researching hospitals in this country and other countries around the world to send thank cards to their Leadership teams to read to their staff during their forums. I also became Chair of three committees: a unit based committee for Retention and Employee Engagement activities and 2 Shared Governance councils- Unit Practice Council for my home unit, and Nursing Workforce Council (house-wide) for the facility. I was beginning to take a stand.
In the midst of the obsession to be a change-maker, my bottled-up creativity began to flourish and I started to realize what truly made me happy. I love my creative side, my crafting, designing and sewing became more than just a hobby, it gave me an exhilarating feeling, that I longed to feel with my career. The internal struggle I begin to feel was to leave this profession to build my life around the dream I’ve always had versus helping the profession be the best it can be consumed my mind for years. Fear held me from my dreams but my love for the employees held me hostage. But I grew weary, extremely tired. The energy I was exerting in trying to make my work environments healthy was depleting other areas of my life. Finally, one day I said to myself “Do what makes you happy.”
I am no longer working, I decided to choose myself over the stress. Did I feel like I’m giving up? Absolutely! I felt at times so alone when taking a stand. I deserve to work for an organization that aligns with who I am, who appreciates me in ways I could not fathom, not the other way around. Nursing is still a profession where you take care of the sick, but the employees need the same kind of love. I am still creating cards, and gifts, still letting all healthcare partners know that they are very much appreciated every chance I get. But this profession needs Leadership that will transform what always has been, to what it can be today.
We need Leadership Teams that lead by example. Leaderships teams everywhere, should know we have a grave problem. That’s exactly where my problem lies. Turning a blind eye, and ignoring these toxic environments as if they do not exist is pushing more star talent out the door. A transparent, transformative leader is what we all need right now, a Leader who would not ask of anything unless they themselves have done it or tried it first because they realize they are neither above or beneath anything that progresses the relationship with their front line) the employees) and the organization. Strategic planning should involve every single person in the organization. We need more transparency, more retention and employee engagement efforts, more of a “thank you “for being here today culture, more endeavors to push our nurses to take their vacation or a mental health days (this can be an overwhelming job at times), more compensation, and safer and healthier working environments. How many more times do we all have to say this?!! These “grandiose” gestures to help with the nursing shortage and recruit new people who in their right mind will not last 90 days is a slap in the face to current partners already invested in these organizations. We have beautiful, competent, willing, and eager employees (Partners), the current front line of the organization that deserve more respect. Everyone deserves more.
I still believe Nursing has contributed major changes in the health of our patients and communities. I believe we have many that are still very much in love with their chosen profession, we just need more to take a stand, to always stand in their own truth and for what is right. Speak up when you see a problem. We need more of you that do not see this as just a job but who take pride in making this the most sought-after career choice, where we do not have to mention the words shortage, or high-turnovers. This is still one of the most trusted professions, a profession that many communities look up to. We need step up to plate, to strive for excellence in all that we do, personally and internally and publicly as an organization and system. If we see a problem, what are we actively, collectively, and consistently doing about it?
Action is the greatest respect.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN