Challenges Faced By Nurses

April 20, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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A career in nursing can be a deeply satisfying and highly rewarding career. It offers the ability to truly make a difference in the lives of people who need help and often face difficult circumstances. It can also provide a stable living and substantial opportunities for growth and development.

But just like any other career path, there is also a list of unique challenges faced by nurses. Whether you are a new, prospective, or even a veteran nurse, it’s important to be realistic about both the upsides and downsides of your profession. By learning about the biggest challenges nurses face in the current environment and how to overcome them, you can prepare yourself for a more sustainable and satisfying career.

The 5 Biggest Challenges Faced by Nurses & How to Overcome Them

No one said being a nurse is easy. We could list the many reasons nursing can be a challenge but here are five of the biggest general challenges nurses face in all lines of service and some practical advice for addressing them.

1. Safety

Nurses face many specific safety concerns. First, nurses have a higher rate of exposure to viral and bacterial infections by caring for sick patients. Nurses also often work with hazardous materials and chemicals that can cause health and safety problems if improperly handled. Finally, there is also a growing epidemic of physical assaults against nurses, particularly in hospitals and psychiatric facilities, making the profession far less safe than in previous years.

Nurses should proactively follow all health and safety protocols to respond to these concerns. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, reading any guidelines and documentation for hazardous materials, and recognizing the warning signs of dangerous situations and avoiding them whenever possible. Nurses should also research any prospective employer’s safety record and ask about the measures they take to ensure the safety of their nurses.

2. Difficult Patients

Even patients who are not physically dangerous can present a significant challenge. Nurses have to help patients, and their families, in times of great distress and who are often dealing with other health challenges. This can lead to communication problems, misunderstood diagnoses, and refusal of treatment, among other problems that nurses are often the primary person left to solve.

Effective therapeutic communication is one of the best ways to overcome difficult patients. By committing to their role as patient advocates, nurses can soothe patients, educate them on their condition, and more effectively administer treatment for their long-term wellness. Difficult and high-maintenance patients will always be part of the job, but the right attitude and approach can make a difference for a surprisingly high number of people.

3. Mental and Emotional Health

Nursing can be mentally and emotionally taxing. The long hours, the stressful and high-pressure situations, and the often difficult interactions can add up. What’s more, many nurses have to work hard not to become emotionally attached or invested in the patients who often face challenging circumstances daily. Conversely, becoming too detached or burnt out emotionally can also get in the way of effective and compassionate patient care.

To promote positive mental and emotional health, nurses can and should take a number of steps. First, it is important to take care of yourself physically by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating a healthy diet. Next, nurses should take steps to protect and improve their mental health by seeking counseling if needed, joining any available support groups, and trying meditation. Friends and family are also crucial to staying grounded and keeping a positive outlook over a long-term basis.

4. Physical Demands

Nursing is a physically demanding job requiring you to be on your feet for long periods. This is particularly true in many entry-level positions, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Nurses are almost constantly moving from task to task to meet patient needs. What’s more, nurses must also be able to lift and move patients and do so increasingly in situations where they may not be getting support from assistants such as transporters or orderlies.

Steps for addressing the physical demands of nursing include using proper lifting techniques, asking for help when needed and available, and stretching and exercising to maintain adequate strength and flexibility. Over the course of a career, some nurses may also seek out less physically demanding niches than hospitals and nursing homes, including doctor’s offices, schools, and home health.

5. Scheduling and Work-Life Balance

Nurses, especially in hospitals and nursing homes, often work 10 to 12-hour shifts or longer and do not have a set schedule. Nurses can work night shifts, day shifts, and or during the weekends due to the ongoing nursing shortage, which may involve a high amount of overtime. This can lead to many nurses having trouble maintaining something that looks like a “normal life,” like not being able to schedule time with friends to missing out on family.

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