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Engaging in direct patient care can be one of the most demanding yet rewarding vocations. Nothing truly prepares the nurse for the nuances required to successfully deliver hands on healthcare interventions. Great nursing care is more than passing medications, performing assessments, and documentation. Great nursing care integrates all aspects of the patient healthcare needs and finds innovative ways to promote optimal wellness in an individualized manner.
Clearly, this is an acquired skill and even the most dedicated nurses will show fatigue. Much effort has been spent to improve patient satisfaction scores. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has developed the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) to “survey patients’ perspectives of hospital care”. Certainly this can be an effective tool to monitor overall hospital performance from the patient's point of view. The job satisfaction of nurses in providing patient care is the other side of this coin. As a profession, there is a need to ensure that nurses are satisfied with providing care within their chosen specialty and facility. The American Nurses Credentialing Center has developed the Magnet designation for hospitals that recognize nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice.
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Factors the affect a nurse's job satisfaction and happiness are intrinsic or extrinsic. Certain extrinsic factors such as pay, leadership, and environmental conditions may impact satisfaction. Deriving satisfaction from providing patient care is also influenced by intrinsic factors which may include how much value the nurse places on assisting in the healing process and interacting with people who are under stress and in less than ideal situations. The opportunity to exercise compassion and be an agent for improving health may also be intrinsic quality that nurses have that improves satisfaction with patient care. Some nurses refer to their work as a “calling”; why they are happy with what they do cannot be explained with words.
In my experience, I have rarely found a nurse who was truly unhappy with providing care. For many of us, it is considered a privilege to gain that level of trust and be there for our fellow human being in their time of need. It is important to recognize that some situations may be attributed to loss of passion for providing care, a devastating thought for a professional nurse. Chronic poor working conditions such as low staffing, faulty or outdated equipment, or burdensome documentation requirements can erode the core of nursing practice. Compassion fatigue is also a phenomenon that needs to be recognized. This is a physical and stress reaction brought about by the continual vicarious exposure to disturbing events. Recognizing and treating these factors early are imperative to preserving nursing satisfaction.
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If a nurse is becoming more and more disillusioned and dissatisfied with their role in patient care, it is important to take a self-inventory before it progresses. An honest review of the situation will likely demonstrate the best path forward. Determine if the patient care setting is the culprit. If working with pediatrics is difficult, then consider clinical areas such as a cardiac or the stroke ward. Are colleagues professional and like-minded? If they do not have a shared passion, perhaps they have compassion fatigue themselves. Being in a clinical setting populated with nurses experiencing chronic compassion fatigue can be worse than a zombie apocalypse. Guard against becoming like them, as the negativity can be infectious.
Are you a nurse struggling with job satisfaction related to patient care? Are you questioning if nursing was the right choice for you? Perhaps you overcame a difficult phase in your career related to your professional satisfaction. Join the RxEconsult community to send me a message and share your experience by commenting.
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More Articles by Tim Fish, RN MBA DNP CENP