The more nurses I talk to, whether in my clinical nursing work or as a coach for nurses, it's increasingly obvious to me that nurses simply need support. While "Nurses Day" and the accompanying flowers, buttons and pens may be nice gestures, Nurses Day and other such celebrations would mean a whole lot more if meaningful support---not platitudes---were offered to nurses who so desperately need it.
So, what does support for nurses look like? Let's do some brainstorming here.
Mandatory overtime: This is an issue that is permanently lodged in the craw of so many nurses. Mandatory overtime is killing morale, damaging the relationship between administration and nurses on the floor, and otherwise wreaking havoc in nurses' lives. (If you have a childcare provider waiting for you to come home from a shift so that she can go home and take care of her own family, your surprise mandatory overtime not only impacts you, it also ripples out into your community as well, perhaps radically impacting her life and the life and work of her spouse or family.) This practice is maligned by many nurses and is the bane of many administrators. It can lead to burnout, medication errors, and poor patient outcomes. Something must be done.
Horizontal violence: For those unfamiliar with this term, for nurses it translates roughly into "nurses bullying nurses". Horizontal violence is verbal, emotional or even physical violence between relative peers. Nurses are renowned for "eating their young", backbiting, and otherwise making one another's lives miserable. Since bullying and "vertical violence" can often come from those in positions of greater authority, some nurses internalize their resentment of this type of treatment from their superiors and then themselves become perpetrators, often against their nursing brothers and sisters. One might also call this "internalized oppression" that is subsequently turned against peers.
Self care: While some nurses are health conscious, many nurses struggle with poor physical fitness, stress-related illnesses, obesity, and a variety of other symptoms directly or indirectly related to their work as nurses. While a gift certificate for a free soda and fries at the hospital cafeteria may be appreciated on Nurses Day, a true employee wellness and stress management program would do a great deal more to combat stress, improve morale, and otherwise make nurses healthier, happier and more balanced.
What else can be done to support nurses? Hugs and embossed coffee mugs on Nurses Day are lovely, but what are your ideas for giving nurses---the backbone of the healthcare industry around the world---the support that they need to be effective, safe and satisfied in their work? Your comments and input are welcome!