In my past 7 years of Nursing, it’s become quite evident to me that over the years we’ve passed down a VERY false belief & mindset about what nurses should (and shouldn’t) be taking on. With hospitals now being run by shareholders and giant corporations (instead of physician and HCP led groups), now more than ever healthcare is functioning as a business. What does this mean for nurses? It means that nurses are simply a means to an end: PROFIT. The number of patients we see in a day, the number of patients we get in and get out, the number of surgeries physicians perform, and how happy and satisfied these patients are all influence a hospital’s profit. So what does this have to do with nursing? Well let’s talk about it.
Business and Nursing don’t mix. It’s like oil and water. Healthcare is definitely a business and I’m just honestly doubtful the 2 will ever see eye to eye. As a business owner, I understand that without hospitals making money, nurses wouldn’t even exist, but today the business side is making decisions that benefit profit and hurt both the patients AND nurses. I don’t think most of the people up top have malicious hearts, I just honestly believe they don’t understand it and it’s not their job to. It’s so hard because Nurses feel CALLED to what they do for a living not because of the income they make, but more so the IMPACT that they make. Of course we need to get paid, but let’s be real, you don’t go into nursing to get rich.
I know for me personally, I truly believe that I was 100% called to be a nurse. I was called to take care of patients in their hardest times. I was called to help support their loved ones and be that advocate that fought to keep them safe, healthy, and feeling like their care was on the right track during their hospital stay. In all honesty, I thrived in this role, but something became very apparent to me in only my first year as a nurse: Nurses were killing themselves to be there for their patients because they felt it was their duty to do so and hospitals were capitalizing on their hearts to serve.
What was the result of such behavior? Nurses were physically hurt. Nurses who had terrible attitudes and were staying in toxic environments (that they enabled) and instead of making a healthy change, they chose to complain and say things like “this is just how it is”. Nurses were tired and burned out. The sad part about my observation was that these nurses have believed that this is just part of the job. They believed that because their co-worker choses to break their back to “be a team player” or “be there for the patients” that it would be wrong and selfish of them to put their wellbeing and health first. So this learned behavior of “dying to self” to serve the needs of the hospital (for the sake of patient care) has became an unhealthy pattern and mindset passed down from one generation of nurses to the next.
We see this act of “dying to self” as a badge of honor. Most nurses are doing it with a heart to serve, but they don’t realize that working yourself to the bone to the point of exhaustion and filling in the gaps of staffing issues caused by poor decisions on an administrative level is NOT heroic. It’s actually neglecting self-care and what this profession needs the MOST: a WHOLE & HEALTHY NURSE! For too long, we’ve passed along this mindset that we’re supposed to “do it for the team.” We’ve passed along this idea that if you’re saying no to working extra or not wanting to stay late that we’re hurting our patients and our team. NO, sister! Your hospital’s staffing issue is NOT your weight to carry! You signed up to work the hours that you signed up for. When you get asked to go beyond that, it is NOT your responsibility to say yes. If you are healthy and able to do that then great, go for it. The truth is, it is only a nurses responsibility to keep themselves healthy and whole so that they can take the BEST and most effective care of their patients on they days that they are required to work!
Saying “NO” to a hospital’s need and YES to yourself is actually SERVING your patients and your hospital. It’s saying, “Hey, I gotta rest and take care of myself. It’s been a long and crazy week & I have to come back in 2 days to do this all over again. Let me take care of myself so I can be their FULLY for y’all next week.” There is NOTHING wrong with saying “no” when it comes to your self care. If your hospital is preaching “self-care” and they aren’t honoring your “no’s” when it comes to the extra shifts and staffing deficits, then they are hypocrites. Nobody wants to work for a hypocrite. There are plenty of other institutions out there who will VALUE your hard work on the days you are scheduled and RESPECT you for your “no’s” on the extra days that you can’t.
And here’s the deal, so long that nurses keep saying “YES” and working extra (out of fear and guilt) and filling in the gaps caused by poor decisions (or lack their of) from the higher ups, we will NEVER get the coverage we need. Why? Because nurses keep saying YES. They KEEP filling in the holes. If we keep filling in the holes because we feel a duty to be their for our patients or not wanting to let our “team” suffer, we will NEVER get the bodies & full coverage that our hospital or unit needs because the numbers won’t prove it. NO we don’t want to see anyone suffer, but hospitals will continue to capitalize on the giving hearts of nurses until we STOP filling in the gaps & holes out of fear, guilt, or feeling that it’s our “duty to serve” in such a way.
I’ve dropped this quote on my Instagram and I’m going to drop it here:
“Nurses are Givers who Need to set limits because Hospitals are Takes who Never Do.”
I don’t care your motive as to why you continue to say yes and work yourself to the bone, you need to hear these truths:
•You are NOT letting your patients down by choosing YOUR REST that you need!
•You are NOT letting your patients down by choosing to keep your days off because you worked your scheduled days and GET TO TAKE YOUR DAYS OFF!
•You are NOT letting your team down by not coming in on an EXTRA DAY! (YOUR HOSPITAL’S DECISIONS ARE LETTING YOUR TEAM DOWN)!
Listen, as a nurse who used to ALWAYS say yes, ALWAYS pick up extra, and ALWAYS GIVE GIVE GIVE, I know what that fatigue feels like when I come into a shift that I said “Yes” to when I should have rested. You are doing your team and patients a disservice by NOT getting the rest you need to come to the table whole. YOU CAN STILL BE AN AMAZING, KIND, GENEROUS, and SERVING NURSE and say “no” to the extra.
We need to get out of this mentality that it’s up to nurses to save the day & our responsibility & duty to be there for our patients & hospitals needs no matter what. That’s SO far from the truth and it’s a TOXIC belief and mindset that has been LEARNED and passed down over the years. We now know more than ever the implications that physical & emotional stressors have on our health. It is your responsibility to take safe & effective care of your patients on the DAYS THAT YOU ARE SCHEDULED TO WORK. That’s it. (And if you’re in a place that implements mandatory overtime, I would give my two-weeks tomorrow because I would NOT work for an institution that has the power to decide when I have to come in on my non-scheduled days. Plenty of other healthier jobs out there).
I’m tired of nurses who BELIEVE and share the message that we are supposed to give our whole lives to our patients or else we are bad people & nurses. Some of you are most likely working with nurses who are believing and setting examples of this. It’s not TRUTH. That’s such a toxic & life stealing belief. Nurses ARE caring. They are ANGELS on earth, but just like our patients need rest and healing, we do too. And we cannot give the safe and effective care that we need if we are not in a healthy and whole state ourselves. Self-care is not selfish and saying no IS a form of self-care.
Remember this: Saying “no” to the extra is not a punishment for the hospital, your unit, or the person asking. Saying “no” is respecting yourself and doing what is right and healthy for you in order for you to show up and be able to CONTINUE to give the BEST care for your patients.
I’m tired of seeing nurses burn out. I’m tired of seeing healthier & new nurses have to deal with the side effects of another nurses lack of self-care and unhealthy boundaries over the years (when you get worked to the core like most do, you’re not a happy camper). You will 100% have a healthier and happier career as a nurse when you start adopting this HEALTHY mindset and start creating healthy nurse boundaries now. Learn to say no. Learn to take care of YOURSELF so that you can take care of your patients. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. TAKE CARE OF YOU!