Letter to the Editor on "The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?"

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

February 23, 2004

in response by Pat Lyons to topic The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different? (Jan. 31, 2001)

Dear Editor:

The OJIN topic of the Nursing Shortage identifies a variety of factors contributing to our current shortage along with the different approaches that are being used to address this shortage. Yet it may take several years for us to reap the benefits of some of the solutions that are being proposed. There is, however, a fundamental area contributing to the shortage that I believe is being overlooked, namely that of the work environment in which care is given. I write to share my suggestions of what nurses can do right now to improve the care environment so as to help alleviate our nursing shortage.

Coming to work in an environment that fosters compassion, learning, and a sense of belonging is a strong motivating factor for most nurses. Nurses want to come to work in such an environment; and this is an area that we as individual nurses can work to change. One way we can do this is improve the ways in which we relate to each other. New nurses should be welcomed, helped, and nurtured. If there is an experience that would be a teaching moment for novice nurses, we can seek them out and take them with us so they can gain the value of our experience. Accepting the variety of backgrounds that enrich nursing today and showing a nonjudgmental attitude toward all will also enhance the work environment. Using nursing skills in the most effective manner is also important. For example we can consider redesigning current care delivery systems and using creative scheduling to help during these difficult times. It is also very important to have some fun while we work. Plan a staff luncheon that includes all staff. Sharing a meal and getting to know other staff helps with team performance.

I encourage each nurse to work toward improving the care environment in just one of these areas. This would certainly go along way toward improving the work environment by decreasing the stress associated with the staffing shortage and retaining some nurses who might be thinking about leaving. While these efforts alone will not eliminate the shortage, they can go far in addressing the shortage and making our lives better during the shortage we are now enduring.

Whether you work in a hospital or in the community, the positive changes that you can make are endless. Although this will be only part of the shortage solution, it can be a big part. What is needed is a desire to make nursing a better profession, which I believe is in each one of us.

Pat Lyons RN
Nurse Educator
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
Boston, MA
e- mail: plyons1@partners.org