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The 5 Most Common Challenges as a Nurse—and Easy Fixes for Each

There’s a reason nursing has been named the most trusted profession in the United States for over a decade. As a nurse, you impact patients’ lives and make your community a healthier place. Although it’s an incredibly fulfilling field, it also comes with a unique set of challenges. Sadly, we can’t wave a magic wand and make common nursing problems disappear (though we wish we could), but we do have some easy fixes up our sleeves. Here are the 5 most common challenges as a nurse and how you can solve each one.


Nurse-to-Patient Ratio

A common complaint we hear from nurses is that they can’t be everywhere at once. Often, nurses work in understaffed workplaces where they have a high number of patients to take care of. Although it would be nice if you could clone yourself and take one patient’s vitals at the same time your clone gave another patient a bath, this technology has yet to be developed.


Instead, many nurses find themselves scurrying from patient to patient, unable to provide the level of care they wish they could. If you find yourself in a workplace with a low nurse-to-patient ratio, the first step is to breathe and give yourself grace—it’s not your fault if a workplace is understaffed.


The next step is to talk to your nursing manager or administrative staff about the problem. If your manager doesn’t know the problem exists, they can’t solve it. When talking to your manager, keep the focus on solutions and make sure not to blame anyone for the problem.

In some states, the problem is being addressed at the legislative level, but this has yet to be the case in North Carolina. When talking to your manager about the problem, you could recommend ratios defined by states that have set nurse-to-patient ratios.


Workplace Violence

Violence against nurses is an under-addressed problem. In fact, 8 in 10 nurses have experienced workplace violence since 2020. If you are experiencing workplace violence, know you’re not alone. Your nursing manager, coworkers, and healthcare administrative staff should be there to support you. In an isolated incident of violence, share what happened with your nursing manager or a trusted staff member who is in a position to address the problem, such as a medical head of staff.


When workplace violence becomes a chronic experience, a bigger solution is needed. This is especially true when the violence is instigated by long-term patients or coworkers, 2 of the 5 types of violence defined by the CDC. In these instances, ask your nursing manager to facilitate workplace violence training.


If you work in a hospital or ER, you also have the right to file a report with the police as violence against nurses in these 2 settings is considered a felony under North Carolina law.


Lack of Respect from Doctors, Patients, and Others

As a nurse, you are an experienced professional who underwent rigorous training. While you don’t have as much training as an NP or doctor, you still have valuable insights to share with patients and other medical staff members. If you feel your thoughts are not being considered or are experiencing other markers of disrespect from staff or patients, there are solutions.


Take a deep breath and ground yourself so you’re responding, not reacting, to situations where you feel disrespected. If possible, try to address the problem in the moment or discuss it with your nursing manager.


However, directly addressing the problem doesn’t always fix the problem, especially if your workplace isn’t a supportive environment. When disrespect becomes a constant, it might be time to consider applying for jobs with more green flags.


According to Harvard Medical School, the green flags of a respectful healthcare employer include:

  • Managers actively listen to their nursing staff

  • The healthcare facility values diversity and welcomes new ideas

  • Managers are open to hearing—and implementing—feedback

  • Nursing staff is given autonomy instead of being micromanaged

  • There are resources to support nursing staff, such as continuing education funds or workshops, are available


Coping with Difficult Emotions

Almost all nurses have to navigate tricky situations alongside patients. Whether you’re providing end-of-life nursing care for a patient or are with a patient’s parents in a pediatrician's office when a cancer diagnosis is announced, you most likely will have to provide emotional care at some point in your career.


When situations like these arise, it’s normal to feel negative emotions, such as anxiety or grief. And just like the patients you’re supporting, you don’t have to deal with these feelings alone. Therapy is a great solution—and one that should be included in your healthcare plan.

Along with therapy, you can practice mindfulness during your shift. Easy ways to practice mindfulness include writing down three things you’re grateful for, grounding yourself in the present moment by focusing on your surroundings and practicing the perfect breath.


Exhaustion

It’s no secret nurses face extremely high rates of burnout. Along with all the challenges listed above (which are already huge feats), many nurses also have lower salaries than they should, long shifts, a lack of breaks during shifts, and more. All these challenges can culminate in a full-body feeling of exhaustion.


If exhaustion hits during a shift, try and take a break, even if it’s 5 minutes sitting in silence in the break room. Outside of work, you have a bit more control over your exhaustion and can address it better. Along with the normal self-care advice, such as getting eight hours of sleep and practicing yoga, there are also some customized solutions to nurse exhaustion:

  • Talk to your hiring manager to rearrange your shifts so there’s more time between each

  • Take a course specific to nurse burnout, such as our free Lead for Care course

  • Pack mood-boosting snacks, such as almonds or blueberries, for during or after your shifts

Challenges as a nurse will come, but there are ways to overcome them.

While these solutions can help, there is no easy fix to a workplace that’s actively causing burnout–and not doing anything to address the problem. When this happens, you should consider looking for a new role.


The HireMe Healthcare app provides free access to burnout-free nursing positions in Charlotte and across the state of North Carolina. Download the app and start the search for your dream nursing role today.

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