The pandemic has caused massive nursing shortages in healthcare professionals, especially nurses. As nurses are expected to take on double duty at the hospital, the mental load they experience leads to burnout, leaving them with no energy for their children.
This widespread problem will cause unprecedented harm to families, but a lot can fix staffing shortages. Unfortunately, hospitals can’t initiate most of these changes with funding.
The Connection Between Nursing Shortages and Childcare
Women make up more than 85% of the nursing workforce, but women are still expected to care for their children and families. This imbalance means men aren’t helping their partners with childcare and are less likely to gain custody of their children after a breakup or divorce.
When women aren’t receiving financial or emotional support, they’ll quickly burn out due to their jobs. In healthcare, it’s accelerated as women are expected to be more emotionally available for their patients. All that emotional labor dries up, leaving none for their children.
While this problem impacts all families, it hits novice nurses harder. Several of the most experienced nursing staff members decided to retire sooner than expected or quit suddenly, leaving the young, inexperienced nurses to pick up the slack in an already understaffed market.
The pandemic further complicates matters, as young nurses are understandingly scared of getting their children sick or bringing their stress home to their already scared families.
What Can Be Done to Reduce Nursing Shortages
Due to a rapidly aging population and an expected increase in birth rates, nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations. Still, without needed change, nurses will continue to be overworked.
Employers Are Expected to Be Transparent
As a last-ditch effort to hire staff, employers hire pediatric travel nurses out of state. However, travel nurses are often paid twice or three times the rate of regular nursing staff for the same work, which would upset anyone once that information comes to light, and it will happen sooner or later.
Although it’s easier said than done, employers should offer better pay or benefits to experienced staff members or clarify why travel nurses come at a premium. Otherwise, your current on-site nursing staff will feel cheated and disrespected, causing them to quit.
Employers Are Expected to Hire Quality Staff
Not everyone can be a great nurse, but few can handle the added stress of packed ICUs during times of crisis. Before the pandemic, the average time-to-hire for the healthcare industry was about 49 days. During the pandemic, hospitals have had to accelerate hire times to a week.
The recruitment and onboarding process should be a slow, deliberate process, which is why hospitals have started to use Applicant Tracking Systems to sort through resumes faster. They’ve also consulted travel nursing agencies to find qualified international professionals.
Employers Are Expected to Accelerate Automation
Employers must learn how automation changes the business world to set up their nurses and other healthcare professionals for success. By removing tedious tasks from your nurse’s to-do list, they can offer more timely and efficient patient care in the hospital or nursing home.
While automation doesn’t directly help with shortages, it does improve employee satisfaction rates, which decreases turnover. When your nurses are offered a better work-life balance, they’re less stressed out, meaning they’re less likely to take mandatory sick leave or quit.
Employers Are Expected to Prevent Burnout
Preventing burnout starts with the employer, not the employee. It’s impossible to expect nurse staff to perform their duties adequately when they aren’t allowed breaks or time with their children, especially after they’ve gone through a traumatic experience like the pandemic.
Employers are expected to prioritize downtime to keep nursing staff in tip-top shape. Establish a habit of offering employees weekly, monthly, or quarterly “mental health days” or “mental health vacations,” where they’re given enough time to relieve workplace stress.