Nurses Day

As a nurse, I can attest to the fact that nurses work hard and deserve a day to show them appreciation for the work they do.  And while the gestures that are provided us by upper management (cakes, cookies, cards, pizza cutters (I am not even joking, we got pizza cutters once)) are appreciated, many of us can’t help but be critical of the purpose of this day and of the state of healthcare in general.

I usually see at least one person on Facebook re-blog a comment regarding how we would appreciate safe staffing levels and better pay over cookies.  And I fully agree with that.  But from a leadership perspective, this comment tends to piss me off.  I work my butt off to advocate for safe staffing levels, proper orientation and training to provide quality care and support for staff in general. What exactly are they doing about it other than complaining on social media?

Who knows what drove them to post it, or much of what get’s posted and re-posted on Facebook. But I have talked with nurses that do not have lovely 3:1 or 4:1 ratios on their unit (for non-hospital/healthcare people out there, 3:1 is referred to as a “nurse to patient” ratio describing 3 patients to every 1 nurse).  Or ward, depending on what side of which pond you work in.

I go back to my own experience with nursing.  I grew up around a lot of nurses. My mother was a receptionist at a Family Practice in a small town.  So when I visited my mom at work, I hung out with nurses. And I was quick to understand that nurses were the glue that held the whole system together. I was well on my way to becoming a nurse until I worked as a Certified Nurses Aide in a Hospital in the early 2000’s.  I was the only aide working an overnight shift on a cardiac ward.  The ward held 32 patients, was typically full of post-procedure and post-surgical patients, and the ratios on that ward were 8:1.  As long as someone didn’t call in sick.  That experience was enough to tell me that I was not going to throw myself into a career if money drove the decisions and not doing what was best for patients.  I changed my major to Architecture and Design after working that job for 3 months.

Yes, I did eventually come back to nursing. But it was because I saw things change. I wasn’t the reason they changed.  There were brave souls out there that spoke up and advocated for themselves and for their patients.  And while not all healthcare facilities have made these changes, many have. I had no idea how to make those changes at the time.  But I now know change doesn’t simply come from complaining about things or running away from your problems.

Nurses make up the majority of the healthcare workforce. If you want to ask someone how something should be done or run in a healthcare setting, why don’t you involve the nurses? I can guarantee you they have an opinion or two to share on how to improve things if you give them the opportunity. We base our training and legacy on a woman who fought tooth and nail to provide safer environments for our patients as well as our staff. That hasn’t changed.  But how you involve nurses in healthcare should.

So, to the nurse that chooses to point out Nurses Day by complaining on social media, I would like to gently suggest that you do some reflection of your practice.  Most nursing standards in many countries support this practice as support that you are maintaining your certification. Is there something in your current environment that could be improved?  Are you doing anything to help improve it?  If not, why not?  Speak up, advocate and eventually you will be the change you’d like to see in the world.

And to the facilities and managers that are trying to figure out what to do for your staff to show them appreciation: ask them!  Every staff group is different, but acknowledge them and their feedback when you want to show them support. Keep an open mind and realize that what they want may not be as simple as doing an online gift search in 10 minutes and buying in bulk. Make the time and let them know you hear them.  Even if you do only end up buying them cookies, at least they know you care enough to ask.

Happy Nurses Day!

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