When I was growing up, I heard a lot about the importance of nurses. My grandmother was a nurse for over 30 years, working in almost all areas of the hospital in my home town.
I heard about the care given to patients, the genuine concern she and the other nurses had for the patients, the difficulties the nurses faced in their jobs, and how their work system was changing. I also heard frustrations that could best be summed up as “No one listens to our ideas.”
I know she would have benefitted from employee engagement.
One of our basic beliefs at Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is that no one knows more about a job than the person doing the work. They understand how the system works, what the problems are, and have ideas on how to make systemic improvements. Unfortunately, nurses rarely have employee engagement opportunities that make use of this knowledge.
Anyone who has ever spent time in a hospital knows the nurses are the primary contact point for patients with the hospital. You may see the doctor for a few minutes a day, but the nurses are there at all hours to provide help, advocate for patients, and deliver the services provided by the hospital. Fortunately for hospitals, the public consistently ranks nurses as the most trusted and ethical profession, ahead of doctors.
As employees, nurses are expected to put forth a positive view of the facility and the care provided. Yet nurses are often subjected to conditions that do not reflect the status the public has for them. As noted in an article from Emory University, “Trusted, But Not Respected”,
Despite some improvements, most bedside nurses still have working conditions that include physically demanding and long hours, mandatory holiday and weekend work, understaffing, disrespectful treatment by other members of the healthcare team without consequence or administrative support, and such blue collar conditions as the inability to control breaks and mealtimes, make a phone call, or sit down to eat a meal without the pressure to return to work as fast as possible. Nursing schools struggle to stay open with tuition pressures, lack of faculty, and diminutive endowments compared to medical schools. But the public loves us.
Is it any wonder health care professionals are significantly less likely than the general public to recommend careers in nursing?
Providing effective employee engagement strategies for nurses can do a great deal to improve the morale of nurses and the level of care provided, Nurses possess the health care knowledge, management skills, and leadership ability to provide innovative ideas to improve patient care, increase efficiency, and enhance the image of the hospital. There are many examples of how involving nurses in programs for patients has returned benefits. (For example, see The Power of Nursing from the New York Times).
There is another important reason for hospital management to provide effective employee engagement opportunities for nurses. According to the Ohio Nurses Association, there is a projected shortage of 800,000 nurses in the United States by 2020. When nurses feel they have real opportunities for involvement the satisfaction they will have with their jobs will increase, as will the likelihood they will remain in their jobs. Better employee retention will cut costs for employee recruitment and training while increasing the experience levels of the nursing staff. This is especially critical when dealing with a shortage of new nursing candidates.
Providing the best quality patient care demands that hospitals utilize the knowledge nurses possess of all aspects of the hospital and patient care. Failure to do so wastes a valuable resource that can benefit everyone touched by the system.