Nurses are key players in the health sector as they provide essential patient care as well as participation in other roles such as administration. Nursing staff in acute care organizations experience numerous challenges during practice. This essay aims to address some of those issues.
First and foremost, underpayment is a major problem that has dogged the nursing profession for years. There are significant regional differences with regards to compensation all over the country. Nurses in some regions receive more pay than those that work in other places. There is also a significant gender pay gap as male nurses generally earn more. As a way of dealing with the problem at the institution level, HRM should come up with policies which ensure that nurses are adequately compensated, regardless of gender. Labour unions should strike agreements with hospital management to ensure that nurses’ interests regarding compensation are well protected.
Secondly, most acute care organizations are seriously understaffed. Short staffing complicates care and leads to increased injury rates in the workplace as well as fatigue. Understaffing has also been a major contributor of nurses quitting jobs citing poor working conditions. Furthermore, it also contributes to errors of drug administration, missed care and prolonged hospital stay by patients (Maloney et al., 2015). HRM should come up with ways to ensure nurses are not overwhelmed by duty. For instance, one nurse in the ICU should not be assigned to more than two patients at any time. Contract negotiations should include staffing levels so that there is enough number of nurses in the acute care organization to handle all patients in need of emergency care.
Most nurses working in acute care organizations also experience long working hours. This problem, in particular, has plagued the nursing profession for years on end. Nurses are forced to put in extra hours during shifts. Most complaints by nurses revolve around working extended shifts which bring about fatigue in the long run. It also increases the chances of making mistakes. Long working hours translate to burn out and overall patient dissatisfaction. HRM should introduce systems that allow scheduling practices in hospitals to allow ample time for recovery of personnel in between shifts.
Workplace hazards also pose significant challenges in the nursing profession. Medical personnel are often exposed to bloodborne pathogens, injuries, and conditions like cold and flu. Data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that injuries that involve the hands, shoulders, back, and feet are common. HRM should ensure that an enabling environment is created so that nurses can safely discharge their duties without risking injury and other potential hazards. Age should be considered during recruitment so that younger nurses are assigned more intensive roles. With regards to flu and cold, antiviral face masks should be availed to control the spread of infection. Similarly, vaccination can also be carried out to deal with the issue.
Violence at the workplace has also been on the rise lately. Violent behavior could be from coworkers or even patients. To deal with the matter, HRM should come up with strict laws that would ensure that staff accused of violent behavior are punished accordingly. This could be in the form of fines or dismissals. Patients should also be discouraged from engaging in violent activities (Duncan et al., 2016).
These and other issues have led to a delay in contract negotiations. Most organizational owners are unwilling to implement solutions to problems faced by nurses. For this reason, organizational performance is also significantly impaired due to decreased quality of care and overall employee dissatisfaction (Moody, 2014). In the foreseeable future, there is bound to be an increased number of planned strikes due to various challenges such as unsafe working conditions and low payment. With increasing sophistication of care, most facilities have been forced to acquire modern healthcare equipment. In institutions where this has not been achieved, the quality of service provision is significantly compromised.
- Duncan, S. M., Hyndamn, K., Estabrooks, C. A., Hesketh, K., Humphrey, C. K., Wong, J. S., … & Giovannetti, P. (2016). Nurses’ experience of violence in Alberta and British Columbia hospitals. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research Archive, 32(4).
- Maloney, S., Fend, J. L., & Hardin, S. R. (2015). Is Nursing Care Missed? A Comparative Study of Three North Carolina Hospitals. MedSurg Nursing, 24(4).
- Moody, K. (2014). Competition and conflict: Union growth in the US hospital industry. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 35(1), 5-25. doi: 10.1177/0143831×12462491