Diverse Perspectives & Advocacy

Nursing Needs a Makeover

Sarah Gray, RN
August 19, 2019
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Nursing is seemingly far from glamorous.

Figs scrubs might just be as glamorous as it gets. We don’t choose the profession for luxury, high-brow, or glamour.

Life in San Francisco and Silicon Valley exposes one to professions and the associated lifestyles that indeed are a bit more ‘charming’ or ‘sexy’ than nursing. I’ve become increasingly intrigued – Why is nursing so far off? We work in a world where donuts and leftover pizza in the break room can be considered true delicacies.

You’re not alone if you’ve wondered what life as an employee of Facebook, Google, Airbnb, or another Silicon-Valley company would feel like. I’ve lived it vicariously through friends and my husband, who works at a software company. Fortunately for him (and me), he gets catered lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and unlimited snacks, beverages, and amenities every day of the week. Layer on the free happy hours, over-the-top themed holiday parties, and club sales trips, and it sometimes is enough to make me wonder if I chose the right major.

Nurses often get the short end of the stick. It feels like we have resigned to sitting in economy class on the airplane of life. We’re expected to be happy for simply having a seat on the plane, while other professions such as the consultants, bankers, engineers, analysts, developers and accountants get ushered into first class and waited on hand and foot simply for boarding the plane.

We’ve all paid a similar price for our plane tickets yet somehow we’ve been content sitting wherever we’re told and then are elated when we receive a free bag of pretzels and a 4oz glass of water. Our expectations must change.

Nursing Reimagined

Do healthier and happier nurses make for healthier and happier patients?

Would a top graduate from a high school decide that nursing and caring for human beings is more valuable than creating the next cat cafe or an Uber for puppies on demand? Maybe- if we spent time treating nurses, who arguably comprise of one of the most underserved professions, the same way we treat people who dial for dollars, we could attract top talent and change the perception of what nursing is and can be. Do healthier and happier nurses make for healthier and happier patients? The evidence is clear. Because if people are healthier and happier, I think the world can be a better place.

Unfortunately, Google-y perks are not built into the budgets that compensate us.

Those in charge of crunching numbers for revenue optimization don’t allocate dollars for sleep pods, free coffee, commuter buses, or even an occasional catered lunch. Heck, you don’t even want to know how much I shell out for parking (honestly, I don’t want to know either). We were beyond excited to have a toaster, Keurig machine (to use our own pods with), 100-square foot (windowless) break room, industrial sized fridge, and lockable lockers upon moving to our brand new hospital just over 3 years ago. I just don’t know how and when our expectations and the bar were set so low.

Interestingly, this is a bit counterintuitive with the ‘bottom line’ in mind. This may make sense for the short-sighted. But with the long-game in mind, recognition and appreciation are forms of compensation that can actually drive revenue for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Numerous publications reveal strong correlations with nurse satisfaction and patient outcomes and satisfaction scores. Happy, safe, and effectively- cared for patients should be the driving source of revenue, no? Interestingly, these are the same outcome scores that hospitals get reimbursed upon.

If that’s not compelling enough (because unfortunately, that isn’t actually how healthcare in the U.S. works), then perhaps staff retention should be considered. It’s extremely expensive for facilities to replace experienced nurses. The average cost of turnover for a bedside RN ranges from $37,700-$58,400. You can make a lot of nurses feel incredibly appreciated in a lot of different ways for that kind of money.

So we’ve decided it’s time to re-think the ecosystem that is perpetuated every day within nursing. The system is broken, and modern, professional nurses don’t have the resources and technology they need to take back control over their careers.

What do you think it will take to reimagine nursing for good? 

Dr. Dan Weberg has a few thoughts on this.

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