A CEO’s reflection as a floor nurse

A CEO’s reflection as a floor nurse

As a young Nursing graduate back in 1990, I enthusiastically repeated the Nightingale pledge with every ounce of sincerity my 24-year-old self could muster. In my lofty ideals, I intended to treat every patient as though he or she were a personal family member, and so I did, to the best of my ability. As the years of my Nursing Career began to stack, inadequate staffing seemed to become more of the norm than the exception resulting in cycles of exhausting 12-hour shifts. As the career of Nursing began to insidiously demand more and more from Nurses, I (along with many of my fellow nurses) gave more and more. What else could I or would I want to do with my life, I really loved caring for my patients, I had committed myself to this calling.  Little did I know however, as one decade of Nursing turned into two, and 12-hour shifts became repeating episodes of heavy lifting and missed lunches and breaks with “days off” designated only for recuperation, I had without intention gotten my lifestyle unto a running wheel of imbalance, that was halted only by a life-threatening illness in 2012.        

 Balance…if a car, our gait, or shopping bags being carried are out of balance, the result is, premature wearing of tires, and possible hip, back or shoulder pain as a result of unequal weight distribution. So, it is with all things in life; just as indefinitely driving a car with unbalanced tires will eventually lead to permanent damage of that vehicle, consistently sustaining an imbalanced Lifestyle will undoubtedly affect physical and/or mental well-being. The results, to name a few; a breakdown in physical and mental wellness, relationships, and an increase in workplace absenteeism and/or presenteeism.

I will never forget a flu season in the early 2000s, multiple local ERs were under diversion as their rooms and hallways were overflowing and lined with gurneys of sick patients. I would face each shift with a certain dread, and we would literally be on our feet for 12 hours (actually shifts would extend well beyond the 12 hours). I remember feelings of hopelessness, depression and a sense of a lack of support as I interacted with sick patients, and unreasonable family members. That unforgettable flu-season however, ended with winter. As difficult and challenging as I thought my tenure of nursing, I am in awe while at the same time extremely concerned for frontline Nurses and Healthcare providers during this Covid Healthcare crisis now going into its 3rd consecutive year.    

 Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic diseases (diseases which can be caused by a short list of risk behaviors) cost the US economy $3.8 trillion annually, heart disease and stroke costs $216 billion with a $147 billion in lost productivity on the job. It saddens me that a significant population of Nurses and Healthcare providers are included in the aforementioned data. An August 28th 2019 article in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care states “there is increased morbidity in Healthcare workers in comparison to the general population.”  As employers demand more, more, more… it seems the secret to increased production i.e., profit, is balance. If I am being honest, I know there were instances when I could have been more intentional about my self-care but for too many, self-care at work is not an option especially during this crisis. The Covid crisis and decades long practice of lack of advocacy in staffing and general interest in the well-being of providers has created the “perfect storm.” Now would be a good time, during this mass exodus from the career of Nursing, a higher-than-average burnout rate, and exploitive prices from Staffing agencies, for the C-Suites of Hospitals and Healthcare Systems to evaluate or reevaluate the importance of work-life balance for every team member, a better way of “business” in this most needed Healthcare industry, and the broader implications this has on society at large.

~ Hazel Brown-Patterson, RN, president and chief executive officer of PSN Inc.

Professional Services Network, Inc. (PSN) works with clients nationwide in the search and recruitment of experienced healthcare professionals in managed care and clinical roles for temporary assignments and direct hire opportunities.  Additionally, PSN’s consultants work with organizations and providers seeking accreditation or re-accreditation with URAC or NCQA. For additional information regarding our services contact us at 301-460-4089 or email us at [email protected].