Nurse Staffing and You
With one out of two nurses reporting inadequate time with patients, you’ll probably experience some form of short nurse staffing during your career. Even though research indicates that short staffing increases the chance of patient complications and medical errors, you may find that your facility still fails to employ enough nurses. Rather than risking burnout or delivering poor care to your patients, it’s important that you know how to ask for the extra help you need without placing your job in jeopardy.
Nurse Staffing Requirements Under the Law
Federal regulations require that medical facilities that participate in Medicare have adequate nurse staffing. The regulation does not specify specific staffing ratios, so thirteen states have passed laws that require facilities to publicly disclose staffing-to-patient ratios or have staffing committees that determine nurse staffing levels. Only California has a required ratio of nurse to patients while Massachusetts has a required level of nurse staffing for Intensive Care Units only.
Some states may not specify appropriate staffing levels but they may protect nurses who advocate for their patients. For example, the Texas Nursing Protection Act doesn’t allow employers to retaliate against you if you report them to a regulatory body because you have safety concerns related to poor staffing levels.
Advocating for Adequate Staffing Levels
Due to the lack of state-mandated staffing levels, your best option for increasing staffing is to advocate for management to provide better coverage. When asking for better coverage, your request should be clear and cite specific examples. If your facility has a nurse-driven staffing committee, you should discuss your specific on-the-job concerns with management that can refer this information to the committee.
American Nurse Today suggests you use the SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Response) technique to discuss staffing shortfalls with management. Always start with your immediate supervisor; most medical facilities are hierarchical structures that strongly rely on the chain of command. It’s also important that you assess any response you receive and decide who you should speak to next to get an acceptable response.
Also consider joining professional organizations that advocate for legal protections for nursing and other regulations. If you belong to a union, make sure that your union is respectfully working with your employer to address short staffing issues.
As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, short nurse staffing will continue to be a problem you’ll have to address. In addition to advocating for your patients with management, make sure that you’re consistently updating your own training and work habits to be the most effective nurse for your patients. That way you’ll be in the best possible position as a nursing advocate and a professional.
We all know the temptation to indulge in delicious foods while in a new place. When on a short assignment, it might be easy to slip into a pattern of eating more than you would at home, ordering that high-calorie Starbucks, or trying all of the local cuisines. But just because you’re away from home, you do not have to be away from your normal health and wellness routine. Here are 7 tips for staying healthy while travel nursing.
1. Start your day with water
Before doing anything else for the day, drink a full, 8 oz. of water. This will hydrate your body and satisfy your appetite so that you don’t overeat at breakfast. But also…
2. Do NOT skip breakfast
There’s nothing worse than going into work with hunger pains. You’re sluggish, cranky, and will likely binge on something unhealthy later to calm the cravings. You can avoid facing this problem by simply eating a balanced breakfast before leaving for the day. It’s important to eat a meal with healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrates in order to keep you fuller longer. Things like avocado toast with an egg on top or oatmeal with fruit can curb your appetite and keep you satisfied till lunch. Check out this website for healthy breakfast ideas.
3. Do a hunger check
Most of the time, when you’re craving pizza or thinking about downing a bag of chips, you aren’t hungry… you’re just bored. Try to distract yourself, drink a glass of water, and reevaluate in twenty minutes. If you’re still hungry, likely the craving will have gone away, and you can make a healthy decision on a snack to eat to tide you over until your next meal.
4. Treat yourself…. But not too much
You’re in an exciting new place! It’s important that you embrace this experience. So, while working on a thirteen-week assignment in Maui or even just a couple weeks in rural Minnesota, allow yourself planned treats from a couple of new places. This will help satisfy you while also maintaining a balanced diet.
5. Remember, a few weeks makes a difference
Whether your assignment is just for a few weeks or for 13-weeks, what you do during that time will make a difference to your health. You might slip into vacation mindset and overindulge, planning to get back to your routine when you return home. But your body can undergo a lot of change over the course of your travel assignment, and it’s important to stick to your eating routine from home as much as possible.
6. Don’t count on finding a gym
If the gym is your usual spot for getting in your workout, try to discover a new fitness hobby. Maybe you’re on assignment in California and can try surfing or swimming. Or you’re in beautiful Gainesville, Florida and can hike every day to get in that cardio. Whatever the case, find something fun to do while away so that you can keep your body healthy while trying something new as well.
7. Release stress
Stress causes more damage to our bodies than we realize. According to the American Psychological Association, health is the third most common source of stress. Trying to count calories, get in daily workouts, lose those couple of pounds… It gets overwhelming. Your mental health can really take a toll. An easy way to check for tension in your body is to do a quick check on your face, your hands, and your shoulders. Are you tensing any of them? Let it go, and take a deep breath. Yes, clean eating is important, as is fitness. But stress can have physical consequences, causing weight gain, appetite fluctuation, overeating, etc. So, let go of the stress, and make health an enjoyable journey rather than a box to check.
As a nurse, what you do is important. You save lives and help promote health wherever you are traveling. Remember to take care of yourself, too.
Research shows that working swing, rotating or permanent night shifts can cause a long list of problems for both body and mind. However, those kinds of hours are a painful reality for many, especially those working in hospitals and other health-care settings. Shift work can disrupt circadian rhythms, affect the body’s production of melatonin and predispose workers to illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and depression, so it’s more important than ever to commit to the three mainstays of good health: eating well, resting well and getting exercise.
1. Rethink Your Meals
Shift work typically disrupts eating patterns. Overeating or eating unhealthy foods from cafeterias and vending machines can lead to unintended weight gain. Plan ahead for a couple of mini meals to eat while you’re on shift rather than consuming big meals before or after and snacking while you’re on the job. Pack a lunchbox with quick, healthy foods you can grab anytime.
2, Stay Hydrated, Not Caffeinated
To stay awake and alert on night shifts, all too many people turn to caffeine. But caffeinated drinks can cause dehydration, raise blood pressure and interfere with sleep patterns once you leave work. A few caffeinated beverages won’t hurt, but balance them with non-caffeinated drinks such as mineral waters, herbal teas and just plain water. Avoid caffeine altogether toward the end of your shift so you can fall asleep when you get home.
3. Avoid the “Day Trap”
When you’re working off-hour shifts, your schedule is just the opposite of the way most of your family and friends live. It may be tempting to join them for regular daytime life once you’re off work, but outside of the occasional lunch with friends or special event, you should establish a quiet daytime routine that lets you get the rest you need.
4. Work in Exercise Whenever You Can
Your night shift job may include plenty of walking and other physical tasks, but if it doesn’t, use break time to move around. Walking corridors, taking stairs or even just stretching at your desk can relieve stress, boost your metabolism and keep you alert.
5. Keep a Consistent Schedule
On weekends and other off-shift days, it may be tempting to upend your schedule to accommodate all the activities you’ve missed out on while working. However, straying too much from your night shift schedule can make it harder to adjust when you return to work.
Shift work doesn’t have to ruin your health. Staying consistent and bringing healthy habits to work can make it possible not just to survive, but to thrive, on the night shift.
The healthcare industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before. As a hard-working nurse, you and your profession face an uncertain future. Advances in technology and a shortage of student nurses are just two of the issues that could change the profession forever. These modern healthcare trends prove that real change is already well underway.
1. Nursing is Adapting to Changing Demographics
Baby boomers are now retiring from nursing in vast numbers. Unfortunately, the supply of new nurses just isn’t keeping up with demand. The majority of nurses in America are now over 50, which means there could be several thousand urgent vacancies within 20 years or so. Unable to fill these vacancies with Americans, healthcare providers will turn to healthcare staffing agencies and immigrants to make up the numbers. Nursing will be more ethnically diverse than ever before, so the industry will need to adapt to different religions, cultures and languages.
2. Nurses Are Playing a Greater Role in Care Provision
As a result of the changes pushed through by the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now paid based on the entire patient experience. This makes the input of nurses more important than ever. Nurses will need to collaborate more closely with doctors and other care providers to ensure entire care packages — and not just specific treatments — are the best they possibly can be. Nurses are also playing a much greater role in financial planning and purchasing decisions.
3. Technology is Becoming Increasingly Important
Technology is changing every area of the nursing profession. Some student nurses, for instance, are already using sophisticated simulators to practice care provision before being granted access to real patients. Electronic health records are also already in use, but they are now being made available to nurses on the move via the latest mobile technology.
4. Nursing is Moving Away from Hospitals
There is now a concerted effort within the healthcare industry to keep patients in their own homes for as long as possible. As a result, there is a growing need for nurses to work in communities — providing care and monitoring the health of patients away from hospitals. An increasing number of jobs are becoming available in other care institutions such as hospices, palliative care homes and chronic care clinics. This new approach to nursing is driving cost-savings and reducing the number of emergency room visits.
5. More “Non Nurse” Practitioners Than Ever Before
So called “no nurse” practitioners are individuals who became nurses without working their way through the ranks as a trainee. Some major in nursing as an undergraduate before attending a nurse practitioner school; others already have an unrelated bachelor’s degree and apply for work as a nurse via an accelerated nurse practitioner program. As more and more baby boomers retire, this pathway into the profession is becoming increasingly important.
6. Nurses Are Becoming More Educated
As the nursing professional continues to change, the need for a wider, more detailed knowledge base amongst nurses becomes greater. An RN-to-BSN degree, for example, allows a nurse to remain in post while he or she studies for a degree or baccalaureate. There is a direct correlation between the continuing education of existing nurses and hospital mortality rates, so expect to see more educational opportunities in the future.
7. The Provider Shortage is Driving Demand for Nurses
Employing more of non-physician clinicians provides a unique opportunity to tackle the physician shortage. This includes nurse practitioners (NPs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and physician assistants (PAs). More of these clinicians would lead to a team-based type of medical care. The American Journal of Medicine states that they could provide evidence-based screening, counseling, and preventative care and logistic support which would leave physicians to manage diagnostic challenges and complex medical issues. This opportunity proves to be more cost-efficient and even shortens long wait times that consumers are facing when trying to see a doctor.
These are exciting and challenging times for nursing. But with the right funding and the commitment of nurses, the future of the profession looks very bright.