Current challenges in nursing and solutions to overcome them

17 May 2021 By Michael Bowyer

​Nurses have one of the most rewarding jobs possible; they help people recover from illness and provide life-changing care. However, constantly seeing people at their most vulnerable combined with the immense amount of best practice, regulations and guidelines to follow when administering care can take its toll.

Nurses are vital to the UK healthcare system and touch the lives of thousands of people every day, that’s why it’s very important to recognise that nursing is a demanding role, but that the challenges you face day in day out can be overcome and there are supportive resources available to you.

What challenges are affecting nursing in the UK?

Whilst there are lots of different types of nurses and nursing roles, from ANPs to triage nurses and HCAs, there are some common challenges that you may face as a nurse. Medical Staffing has also provided some solutions to overcome these common nursing challenges to take the pressure off yourself so you can focus solely on the job at hand: providing exceptional patient care.

Staff shortages

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the 7.3 million nurses working across Europe will struggle to cope with ageing populations. Additionally, according to Science Daily, 40% of nurses are over the age of 50 which means that as more nurses retire, people of their age group require more healthcare attention, creating an imbalance in healthcare labour and demand.

Staff shortages can also be caused by:

  • Unexpected sick leave

  • Holiday cover

  • Seasonal pressures

Solutions to nursing staff shortages:

Whilst it can be impossible to control and entirely eradicate nursing shortages, what you can do is support the implementation of technology that allows for remote, efficient patient care. The recent rise of telemedicine has allowed for nurses and healthcare professionals to provide a higher volume of flexible care resources. These include:

  • Remote consultations

  • Mobile health apps

  • Wearable devices

Long working hours

We know that as a nurse you can often feel pressured to complete 12-hour shifts with additional overtime too and can find yourself, single-handedly, completing the work of two nurses. Whilst we appreciate this isn’t by choice but out of necessity and dedication to see care through to its completion, it can affect the quality of care you provide and put patients’ health at risk as exhaustion and burn out can quickly set in.

Solutions to avoid burnout from long shifts:

We wish we could say that it’s an option to never work a long shift again, but unfortunately sometimes necessity dictates the occasional long shift here and there. However, some tips to help you get through long shifts or overtime include:

  • Make use of your one-hour break to rest, recharge and unwind

  • Make sure you have nutritious food and snacks to keep your emotional and physical energy levels up

  • Communicate with your team and share the load

Stress and professional burnout

Prolonged periods where nurses work long hours, get little sleep, and perform continuously high-pressured tasks can easily lead to burnout and fatigue. Common manifestations of burnout for nurses include:

  • Depression

  • Lack of motivation

  • Lethargy

  • Cynical and negative attitude

  • Headaches

Solutions to relieve or reduce the effects of stress and professional burnout

There’s no one solution fits all when it comes to relieving stress and burnout as a nurse, but some techniques to consider include:

  • Exercise: Go for walks on your breaks to clear your head, find time for a run or gym session when outside of work

  • Meditation: Find time to focus on your mental wellbeing either through meditation apps, yoga, breathing exercises, etc.

  • Find a balance: Work-life balance can be particularly challenging as a nurse, but making your time outside of work count can help you feel more grounded and help you recharge more effectively.

  • Ask for support: The techniques outlined above won’t work for everyone. Knowing when to seek help and advice is the most important way for nurses to tackle stress in the workplace. Many organisations offer support programmes to help.

We can ensure you are always able to provide the best care possible by sourcing short and long-term assignments, out of hours, or back-to-back roles. We offer full diary management and get to know you, your skills, and your long-term career goals so we can find assignments to suit you. Our specialist consultants are always on hand to help you with onboarding and compliance support.

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