Biggest Challenges Nurses Faced In 2021 And How To Become More Resilient In The Future


Burnout problems persisted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been made worse since the beginning of the pandemic.

Derek Jones

Derek Jones

As we enter 2022, we want to reflect on some of the biggest challenges nurses faced in 2021 - the second pandemic year.

Knowing the essential need for nurses as frontline personnel during COVID-19, the struggles they went through shouldn’t come as a surprise. But, are we overlooking the difficulties of this profession?

Let’s look at a few of the most significant pain points for nurses in 2021 and see how they can become prepared and more resilient in the future.

1. Emotional Trauma

Nurses and public health workers experienced increased mental health problems due to COVID-19 in 2021. The pandemic took many lives and brought on fear among all of us, especially nurses, since they were the immediate caregivers for COVID-19 patients.

This type of emotional trauma is perhaps why so many nurses decide to leave their profession behind and start something new.

2. Fear of Contracting COVID-19

The second great challenge nurses faced in 2021 was the fear of contracting COVID-19 at the workplace. Nurses in every clinic had this fear, especially those working in COVID-19 centers and clinics.

Throughout 2021, many clinics had deficits of PPE (personal protective equipment), making this fear even more realistic. Naturally, one solution to the problem is ensuring your clinic has enough PPE on stock at all times, especially vital things like face masks. On top of that, you should rotate nurses’ shifts properly to avoid transmission and ensure they’re well-rested.

3. Exhaustion and Overworking

According to a 2021 PubMed report, 34.1% of nurses experienced emotional exhaustion, 12.6% fought depersonalization, and 15.2% felt a lack of personal accomplishment. These are all signs of burnout.

All healthcare personnel are at a greater risk of burnout. However, nurses - especially those who work on the frontlines - are most at risk. They’re often overworked and exhausted, with a poor work-life balance.

Clinics can hire extra shift workers to help them during busy periods to prevent overworked staff. By doing this, you’ll lift some weight off your nurses’ shoulders and allow them to take days off to take care of their mental and emotional health.

4. Staffing Issues

As we’ve mentioned above, frontline nurses are often exhausted, overworked, and at risk for burnout. But, how do you prevent this from happening when there’s a global deficit of nurses?

Luckily, you can have an on-demand talent pool with technology! For instance, implementing healthcare scheduling software in your clinic is one way to automate and plan your nurse shifts in advance. Furthermore, these scheduling tools can help you plan coverage weeks and find last-minute replacements when you need them the most.

5. Underpayment

Although improper wages aren’t a new problem for nurses, the need for better compensation became more apparent when the pandemic started.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the world finally realized the importance of the caregiver and nursing professions. However, we didn’t match that in wages. At the moment, being a nurse isn’t that lucrative.

According to a 2021 poll, the majority of Americans agree that aids and nurses are underpaid. But, we still need to take action and work on boosting the pay if we want to increase the number of nurses available during and post-pandemic.

Cultivating Resilience as a Nurse

Becoming more resilient is a crucial factor for nurses to stay sane in this demanding profession. Here are some key takeaways:


Taking a step back to breathe and care for your own needs is just as important as patient care. Caring for others becomes a struggle when you’re not in the right emotional space.

Practicing self-care is crucial for managing stress, especially during a pandemic. Clinics have to prioritize nurses’ and caregivers’ mental health and find ways to support them.

Organizational Changes

Many challenges nurses face result from poorly structured workflows, scheduling problems, and a lack of organization in a clinic. Additionally, during COVID-19, teamwork and crisis management became more important than ever before.

All clinics have to take actionable steps to improve workflows and avoid under-staffing or overstaffing (to avoid the risk of transmission).

Support Network

Being surrounded by people who support you and take care of you is a must when you spend the whole day caring for others.

So, build a support network of family, friends, and nursing colleagues who understand the challenges you face daily. Talk to them and exchange experiences and ideas.

Summing Up

Nursing isn’t an easy profession, especially during a global pandemic outbreak. The mental, physical, and emotional toll of the job can severely impact the life quality of nurses and cause more and more of them to leave their jobs behind and look for something less challenging.

Pair that with the less-than-ideal work conditions and compensation, and you can understand the severity of the issue.

Moving forward in 2022, we’ll hopefully realize the mistakes on a global scale and take steps to improve these challenges, making nurses more resilient in the future.

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor costs in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.

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