"Before I sign off, one of my readers asked me to help him out. Edward J Gordon, RN is doing some research for a book and he wants to hear from you. The book is about burnout. I’m sure most of you know what that is. Here’s what Edward said:
I sure would like to understand what’s at the heart of burnout. What is it that kills us about nursing? What is it that makes us so unhappy? Almost everyone I work with is either trying to get into NP school, or CRNA school, or is already taking classes-as if there were some unlimited amount of jobs away from the bedside. I think if I were younger and wanted to leave the bedside, I’d leave nursing altogether, become an IRS agent or something (I like numbers.). It seems like caring kills. It kills us personally to care for others. It turns us into something we are not. But is that a bad thing or a good thing? And is it this kind-of spiritual suicide that’s at the heart of burnout? I’m just wondering.
Please send Edward an email at EdGordonRN@cableone.net if you can help him out."
Nurse Anne decided to email Ed. I basically summed up the reason for this blog and made my usual amount of typos due to the fact that I am always in a rush. I know I simply told him things that he already knows, and I doubt that my email is really what he is looking for, but I sent the email anyway.
It went something like this:
Why do nurses burn out?
Nurses are expected to take on a ridiculous number of patients. At the same time they are expected to treat each and every patient as if they are the only patient on the floor. It is an impossible task and that is what burns nurses out.
We get the most wicked abuse when we are unable to provide this level of care from patients, families, our managers, the media etc. Here in the UK they will staff a 25- 35 acute medical ward that has a significantly high number of elderly, dependent patients with dementia with 2 RN's only. If we are lucky we may get 2 or 3 care assistants to help. We don't even get a ward clerk to answer the phones anymore as management does not want to pay for it. This is getting normal for general medical surgical floors in the NHS. It is definitely the norm for wards that have a high number of elderly patients.
I cannot remember the last time we had more than 2 RN's on duty for the whole floor.
If you open the newspapers here in England you will read countless articles about the suffering of patients in hospital. They claim that the nurses are uncaring and lazy and that this the whole cause of the problem. They claim that the whole problem is that nurses are better educated these days, and that we think we are above mopping the floors and caring for patient's basic needs. They claim that this is the reason MRSA and cdiff are rampant. This is what people think.
We are often left with critically ill patients during mealtime and 2 nurses and 2 care assistants to feed 18 people. We get a 20 minute window at mealtime to get all the food out and feed the patients. The critically ill patients do not go away at this time. What to do? What to do?
The press and various patient rights groups are claiming that nurses these days think that they are "too clever to do something so menial as feed patients" and say that this is the reason that patients are starving. They hit us up with these insane patient loads and then they say that if we are not sitting at bedsides mopping brows and holding hands it is because we are all cruel. We often work 14 hour days without a break and without stopping and still cannot get anything done. let alone done well.
People do not realise that nurses have life and death responsibility on their shoulders and that every second counts. They place unrealistic and unfair demands on the nurses, and then they lauch direct attacks towards the nurses when their unrealistic demands are not met. This is why "caring" burns us all out. This is why our nurses are running away from the bedside.
I blog about this if you ever want to have a read. I'll just warn you about my language. I do tend to swear like a sailor at times. I don't swear normally, bad language just seems to rear it's ugly head when I blog.