Are We Partly to Blame for the Nursing Shortage?

If someone asks you if they should go into nursing as a profession, what do you say? How do you answer? I know many nurses who go out of their way to discourage new blood.

If someone asks you if they should go into nursing as a profession, what do you say? How do you answer? I know many nurses who go out of their way to discourage new blood. They list the horrors and the less than pleasant aspects of the job. They tell these people to run as far away from nursing as they can, as fast as they can.

In all fairness, can we not then blame part of the nursing shortage on the nurses themselves? If nurses badmouth the profession long and hard enough, there’s no doubt why people don’t want to become a nurse.

I don’t denigrate the nursing profession. I don’t discourage people from going into it, and I don’t tell people they’re nuts to think about it. I don’t sugar-coat things; I will tell people what is truly involved in nursing, but I don’t spin it to be the worst thing that can happen. In fact, I give nursing full credit for where I am today, both professionally and personally.

There’s no denying that there are some not-so-good aspects to nursing. We don’t get the respect we deserve and in the United States, many hospitals treat their nurses as disposable and unnecessary. People see a nurse sitting at the nursing station charting or doing paperwork and assume that he or she isn’t working. And this list does go on. Some of the work we have to do is disgusting and some of the things we have to deal with boggles the mind; but many professions and careers have this sort of thing too.

While it is not fun at all to have to work holidays and weekends, what other profession can also give you the flexibility that nursing gives you? When I had my first child, I had a full-time, 8 to 3, job in a school for physically handicapped children, a dream job to many nurses. But I gave it up to work part-time 4 to midnight in a hospital. Why? Because I wanted to be home with my children. I had three children over 4.5 years and I wanted to be home as much as possible. The reality was that I had to work, the reality was also that nursing let me make it work.

When my second one was born, I worked only weekends for a few months. Although throughout my nursing career I worked all three shifts, when the kids were babies and preschoolers, evening shift was the best. I could be home all day with them and then at work in the evening. Yes, I got short-changed in sleep and some valuable evening family time, but my husband also became a very involved dad, knowing how to care for them without me interfering.

In nursing, if you tire of one area of the field (medicine, let’s say), you could try to move to orthopedics, pediatrics, obstetrics, or many other areas. If you live in one part of the country and want to/have to move, you can take your skills with you.

While nursing may not be a glamorous profession or one that will make us rich, it does give us work and it does pay the bills. Do we need to make changes? Absolutely. Do we need to fight for those changes? Without a doubt. But, does turning people away from nursing do any of that? No. It leaves us with even fewer people to do the job.

We have to stop chasing people away and start encouraging nursing as a viable choice, a good option, for those who are called to it.