Nurses play an integral role in the healthcare industry, acting as a liaison between doctor and families while providing the day-to-day comforts that patients need to recover. It’s a demanding profession that requires patience, dedication, skill, and above all, compassion. Yet, despite the overwhelming value of the nursing profession to the healthcare industry, nurses have historically faced some of the most difficult challenges and obstacles of any professional working in the field or medical care. In 2017, nurses continue to face setbacks from hostile patients to pay cuts, although there is currently a push to improve working conditions for nursing staff.Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Krankenschwester_doku1.jpg
An Unsafe Work Environment
Nurses today face violence from both patients and coworkers, with the incidence of traumatic injuries in the profession nearly doubling between 2012 and 2014. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence can include assault, written or threats, physical or verbal harassment, and homicide.
With the rise in workplace violence among all healthcare professions, many states are pushing for bills to protect nursing staff. While there is no federal requirement for employers to put violence prevention programs in place, some states have implemented their own legislation forcing workplaces to maintain practices that keep employees safe from verbal and physical assault. Public employers in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, and New York must have a workplace violence program in place, while employers in Washington are required by law to report any incidents of employee harassment. Currently, only eight states do not have penalties in place for the assault of nurses.
Nurses may make more or less depending on where they live due to regional differences in the cost of living. According to the 2016 AORN Salary and Compensation Survey, nurses living in New England and the mid-Atlantic tend to make more than the average staff nurse, while those in the east south central region make $5,800 less on average per year. Nurses working in the west south central region make $4,800 less on average. The facility a nurse works at can also influence salary, with those working in community hospitals making less than those working in a specialty center or academic setting.
Gender can have a significant impact on how much nurses are paid, regardless of where they work. On average, male nurses make over $5,000 more per year than their female coworkers. All fields have a gap, with chronic care having the smallest difference and cardiology having the largest. As more light shines on the issue of pay disparity in nursing, employers and insurance agencies can work to ensure that nurses are compensated fairly across all fields.
Nurses face long, often grueling hours on the jobs, sometimes enduring shifts of more than 12 hours at a time. While comfortable nurse shoes and a quick break might be able to help nurses stay on their feet all day, working back-to-back or extended shifts can lead to exhaustion, and exhaustion can lead to mistakes that can be life threatening in the healthcare industry. Nurses who work longer hours also report higher levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction than their well-rested coworkers.
Long hours are often the result of short staffing, which not only forces nurses to take multiple shifts but also affects patient care quality. Unionized nurses and the American Nursing Association are currently promoting legislation to hold hospitals accountable for manageable nurse staffing plans.