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Confessions of a Nurse: Understaffed Nursing Shifts

More than 2.7 million nurses are suffering from healthcare burnout. Yet, if you google how to deal with the problem, most of the advice addresses the effects, not the causes. While taking a walk or cuddling with a dog can help in the short term, it won’t eliminate the impact of being underappreciated or understaffed at work. Denise Jones, the Director of Nurse Relations at HireMe Healthcare, shares real advice about overcoming nurse burnout.

This interview is part of HireMe Healthcare’s Confessions of a Nurse series. This series pulls back the curtain and discusses the reality of being a nurse. Nurses are some of the most underappreciated members of society, even though your work as a nurse literally saves lives. Each interview provides resources that help nurses find roles where they are appreciated. The series also offers tips to reduce burnout, combat stress, and deal with being overworked in either a new role or in your current job.

Denise’s Story

Denise Jones is the director of nurse relations at HireMe Healthcare. Before taking on this role, Denise was a CNA from 2016 to 2018 at a large hospital in Massachusetts. It was before COVID, but the unit she was on (PCU, and Med Surg-Neuro 6-West) was still understaffed.

Between working the night shift and bartending from 4 –11 p.m. each day, Denise was burned out. In this interview, Denise shares tactical steps to overcome nurse burnout as well as her experience working in an understaffed nursing setting.

See her full interview below.

Warning Signs of a Bad Workplace

When Denise was first interviewing for roles, there were some red flags that the unit was understaffed. Looking back, she can see the red flags, but hindsight is 20/20. In her confessional, Denise explains what to look out for when interviewing for a job.

  • Take note of different features of the job and if they’re a fit for you. Some people love a high-paced environment or working the night shift, and others hate it. Be clear about your preferences when going into the job search.

  • Look for job descriptions that focus on the applicant. A job description that talks about the facility and how great the employer is are red flags. A green flag is a job description that is focused on the applicant, not the employer.

  • Shadow before accepting a job. By shadowing a current nurse, you can get a better idea of what your day-to-day will look like. Even if the hospital wing or practice is fully staffed when you shadow, pay attention to what comments nurses are making. When Denise shadowed, it was a fully staffed day, yet nurses still made comments about being exhausted, which should have signaled to her that they were understaffed.

  • In job interviews, ask about the resources available to you. If they’re hesitant or the answers are generic, there are not enough resources. Instead, look for specific resources, such as having a mental health program for nurses.

Remember Your Value

Along with looking for red flags in a potential employer, look for red flags in yourself. The biggest warning sign that you’re not approaching the job search right is when you’re more concerned about getting a job vs getting the right job.

For Denise, her understaffed nursing role was her first job out of university. When applying for jobs, she was more focused on getting a job than if her wants and needs were met in the role. If she had taken the time to know her worth and express her wants, she might have ended up in a healthier workplace.

As a nurse, your skills are in-demand. Remember your worth when interviewing. You want a workplace where you are supported by management and your coworkers.

Since it can be hard to keep this in mind when you are applying for roles, HireMe Healthcare has designed its app to automatically prioritize nurses’ wants and to remind nurses of their value. Denise worked on the HireMe Healthcare app with the designers to make sure the app prioritized nurses, not just employers.

You Can Ask for Help

When Denise felt overwhelmed at work, it was easy to feel isolated. Once she started asking other CNAs and nurses for help, she felt more supported. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Tackling your professional life alone is a huge burden; leaning on others can help alleviate it.

One free resource Denise wished she had was Lead For Care, HireMe Healthcare’s resiliency training for nurses. In this free module, you can become a leader in the workplace and an advocate for your own needs and boundaries.

Whether it’s asking a coworker to help with washing a patient, asking management to help prevent violence against nurses, or turning to a trusted partner like HireMe Healthcare when looking for a new role, you have a community to support you. You are not in this alone.

Ready to find your next role or want some free resiliency training for your current one? Download the HireMe Healthcare app today.


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