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Nurse First News Blog

Challenges in Nursing: How to Overcome Them

Posted January 11, 2021

Nursing is a difficult profession and isn’t for everyone. Some major challenges that present themselves include nurse shortage, exposure to illness, workplace violence, and much more. Let’s have an open conversation about some nursing challenges and walk through tips to overcome them, shift after shift.

Nursing Shortage


The nursing shortage has been increasing throughout the last few years. This leads to more medical errors, patient falls and impacts the patient’s quality of care. The nurse shortage puts more stress on working nurses which can also cause burnout.

But why the shortage? Many variables create this problem. A study by Science Daily found that 40% of nurses were over the age of 50. This means more nurses are retiring. This causes a problem; while a large number are retiring, the baby boomer generation is increasing and needing more care – this creates an imbalance in the industry.

To overcome this challenge it will take many people sitting at a table discussing and working towards a change. What you can do as a nurse is let the leadership of the hospital or facility know your concerns and observations related to the nursing shortage, familiarize yourself with legislation related to nurse-patient ratios in your state, and help mentor new nurses.

Increased Exposure to Sickness

stress for nurses

Nurses are around sick patients day in and day out. Now with COVID-19, flu, and cold season, it is so crucial to take care of yourself and use precautions. Here are some tips for staying healthy during your shifts.

• Make sure you have proper PPE
• Take probiotics daily
• Skip sugary snacks and excessive alcoholic drinks
• Sanitize everything you touch, like your phone, work computer, refrigerator door, and your purse.
• Avoid biting your nails and touching your face
• Get as much sleep as possible

Implementing these tips into your daily life will help keep you healthy and ready for whatever your shift has to throw at you. 

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can be found in all industries and workplaces, however is commonly a challenge in nursing. According to a 2018 American Nurse Today article, 67% of all nonfatal injuries caused by violence occur in the healthcare field. Workplace violence in nursing varies depending on the facility and the type of patients a nurse works with. OSHA shares that the most common specialty that suffers from violent injuries resulting in days away from work include home health, ER, LTC, and Psych.

80% of all injuries are due to patients, followed by family members of the patient, and bullying by coworkers. Violence can be defined as verbal threats or physical assault. Unfortunately, this violence is often underreported.

If you experience any kind of violence or have a patient or coworker make you uncomfortable, report it to management. Good recordkeeping will force management to take a look at their program and re-evaluate their workplace violence prevention program. This will yield a better environment for nurses and patients while maintaining good retention rates for staff.

Technological Development

No, Robotic nurses are not coming to steal your job, yet. To many nurses, the new technological developments, like telehealth, electronic health records, and automated IV pumps are all new advancements that help make their shifts more manageable. These technologies help reduce human error, save time, and reduce nurse burnout. So what is the problem?

The challenge with new technological development is the learning curve that comes with it. Older nurses who lack tech skills are often intimidated by new systems. Baby boomers make up a large chunk of the nurses in the industry (>40%) and often find new technology challenging to learn. This can lead to low retention rates or early retirement.

A few countries like Thailand, Belgium, and Japan have been using nursing robots to help out around the hospital with tasks like greeting new arrivals, keeping an eye on elderly patients, setting up virtual calls with patient families, delivering pills and meals, and to help train nursing students. While these robots can help save hospital costs and improve patient care, artificial intelligence can’t yet replace the innate qualities nurses possess that help them excel as healthcare workers.

Our advice to you? Stay open-minded with technology advancements and try to remain adaptable to changes!

Busy shifts

Another challenge of nursing is the long and busy shifts. Most people outside the nursing field think a 12-hour shift is a long time, but many nurses struggle to complete all their tasks during these shifts. Between charting, taking care of patients, and other job duties, nurses hardly have time to use the restroom or eat lunch.

Our tips for nurses to overcome busy shifts are to arrive to work 20 minutes early. This gives enough time to get acquainted with what to expect on the shift and prepare a care plan.

We also can’t stress enough how important it is to take that five-minute break to snack or chow down, this will help slow down your mind for a bit so you are able to reset and focus better.

Hospital Politics

Navigating hospital politics can be a challenge. Hospital politics could include instances of gossiping, taking credit for other’s work, bullying colleagues, feuding, management who play favorites, and much more. Having to deal with hospital politics can attribute to a decline in job satisfaction and a higher likelihood of leaving a facility.

Becoming a travel nurse is an easy and fun way to avoid politics in the workplace. Since travel nurses jump from location and facility every 13 weeks, they aren’t around long enough to get sucked into the drama. If they are, they only have to deal with it for a short time before leaving for the next contract. Want more info on travel nursing? We can help!

Other tips for avoiding hospital politics are to take the high road during confrontations, remain neutral on hot topics, focus your energy on your patients, and report any bullying witnessed at the facility.

Shift Cancellations

Working Shift photo

Any per diem nurse will tell you that there are many perks to choosing your own schedule and days you want to work, but shift cancellations are a common challenge faced. A shift cancellation isn’t a reflection of you as a nurse, but more often than not due to low census. The facility or hospital simply doesn’t have enough work for you to take on during your intended shift. 

Shift cancellations come with the per diem nursing territory. However, the flexibility of this career provides usually outweighs this downfall.

Recognizing the challenges of nursing is the first step, the second step is overcoming the challenges. Nursing is challenging but the reward is worth the struggles!

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