Nurse leaders: Deep Down, You Know What to Do

People want to work.  At their core, they want to do work that matters to them and makes a difference.  In the words of Daniel Pink we have an “innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world”.  Money often gets in the way of this.

 

I used to watch the Suze Orman show back in the day and her motto was “People first, then money, then things.”

 

And sure, maybe on the surface we feel like “yep, got it”.  But what if we dig deeper.  Often, it isn’t until we look at our behavior, our choices, and our words until we see if we really are putting people first before money and things.

 

As a healthcare worker seeking to change the system, I have noticed the healthcare system does it backward.  It seems that money is the priority and because poor patient outcomes and low patient satisfaction impacts the bottom line that we care about it.

 

We know from thought leaders like Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, Brene Brown, and Eric Mosely that when we put people - our workers - first, they will enjoy what they do and will serve customers (in this case patients) well.

 

So why do we do the opposite of this in healthcare and expect a different result?

 

Is it because nurses are natural caregivers and we know that because they care for their patients they’ll do whatever it takes to help patients?

 

Is it because are only focused on metrics and data instead of the human element?

 

Is it because we’re scared to do something different?

 

Something else?

 

The thing is, the fact that 32% of Registered Nurses are considering leaving their jobs should come as no surprise.  However, nursing burnout and nursing shortages are not the problem.  They are a symptom of a system that puts them last.  A system that doesn’t seem to get that (1) they are humans worthy of respect and fair treatment, (2) when they are respected and treated well they will be at their best (including less likely to burnout)

 

I suspect if you are a healthcare leader still reading this you see the problems, truly care about people, and want to make changes but in some way feel stuck in or stymied by the system you’re in - they system of “managed cared”, insurance company greed, and illness management (instead of true healthcare).  I have to believe this isn’t why you went into this field.

 

And, the hard part is that as a leader the change starts with you - your words, your actions, and the decisions you make.

 

There is a way out of the downward spiral that is nursing burnout, nurses leaving their jobs, staff shortages, and worse patient outcomes.  The way out requires stepping out of how things have always been done and implementing true change - change that is more than pizza in the break room and providing an extra day off on occasion (which unsurprisingly pisses off your nurses because it seems performative instead of focused on change).  It requires tuning into the the underlying needs of your nurses and listening to what you know to be true in your heart.

 

You can turn this around.  You can lead the way through this.  Now is the time.

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