As we emerge from the holidays and start 2022, many of us look forward to a different kind of year than we’ve experienced over the past 2 years. Without a doubt 2020 and 2021 were perhaps the most challenging healthcare has experienced in decades. We have seen the best and worst in humanity due to COVID-19 and racial unrest. Yet, the nursing and healthcare professions have continued to show up, be present, and care for those in need in the face of fear, uncertainty, and sheer exhaustion. As I look to 2022, I wish for a new reality for our profession; a spark to reignite our passion so we remember why we became nurses in the first place and the courage to start changing our reality into one where we can thrive.
We all know the obvious; we need to address the nursing shortage; strive for adequate, competent staffing; increase the number of faculty and clinical sites; increase salaries; improve diversity, equity and inclusion; and foster resilience. To do these things we need to institute change and change is challenging and hard work.
The Value of Nurses
However, before we get started on addressing these issues we need to get back to the fundamentals and be able to articulate the value nurses bring to healthcare. How can we articulate our value if we have no consistent method to measure what we do and the impact we make in care delivery and patient outcomes? Anecdotally, we know we are valuable. After all, our institutions receive letters from patients and follow Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) scores, and quality improvement projects show us if we improve care delivery behaviors, outcomes and care variability improve. But I challenge you – do nurses really know their value and can they articulate it? It’s hard to feel valuable when we are often faced with overwhelming documentation burden, inadequate staffing levels, plus burnout, exhaustion and violence from those we care for and worst yet, our own colleagues. Many nurses would say they’ve lost their spark for the profession.
Time for Change
We need a change, and the change needs to start within each one of us. Let’s start by focusing on our own well-being. We are a caring profession, and we need to start caring for ourselves or there will be no one left to care for those in need. We need to seriously look at the hours we work and the responsibility of our personal lives and try to get some balance back. We need to start prioritizing our other roles as significant other, mother, father, sister or brother. We need to build in time for our own self care and that may mean saying no when asked to work extra shifts. Healthcare organizations need to prioritize fostering resilience in their workforce.
Healthcare organizations can readily see the value of providers who bill for their services because it directly impacts revenue. Healthcare needs to find a better way to determine how quality nursing care impacts revenue and that can only be achieved through innovative change including legislation and implementing a unique nurse identifier like the National Provider Identification unique identifier for providers.
Nurses need a zero-tolerance environment for unsafe staffing, horizontal violence from coworkers and violence from patients and their families. All nurses have a right to practice in a safe environment.
Reignite the Spark
It’s time to heal and reignite our spark. We have to remember why we went into this profession in the first place and it’s because we wanted to help those in need. Right now, nursing is in need and we must start our own healing process so we can continue caring for others. We must reignite our passion for our profession. All we need to get this started is for each of us to ignite our own spark and soon our collective fire will return.