The COVID-19 pandemic has put a new spotlight on nurses and the role they play in the healthcare industry. Many nurses were praised as heroes during the worst days of the pandemic, but most of them aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Putting nurses on a pedestal in the public eye won’t help them stay safe at work or make more money for their time. Nurses are instead facing more threats than ever before, including critical staffing shortages, burnout, and hostile work environments.
Memes from popular nursing social pages, such as Funny Nurses and FabulousRN showcase the humorous side of Nurses eating their young and being less on the ‘forgiving’ side of life. But is this a culture that has been cultivated from patient’s burnout out their providers? Perhaps.
We talked to a famous HCW social influencer who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of backlash. “I’m on social media, especially TikTok and Instagram, but the Twitterverse is somewhere I just won’t even tread. I’m surprised that some Nurses can even call themselves caregivers considering what comes out of their tweets. It can be the epitome of what we all talk about with Nurse bullying. But that person has probably been spat at, punched, kicked and called god knows what during their lifetime of working.”
However, when it boils down to it, Nurses are human beings just like the rest of us. We broke down 5 myths in the healthcare World that you should know:
Nurses Are Often Underpaid
Many people assume that nursing is a lucrative career, but that’s not always the case. It may be one of the fastest rising professions in the U.S., but a 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median annual wage for registered nurses is $75,330, which is more than the national average of $51,916.27 per year.
However, many employers don’t give pay raises for additional certifications. The rate of pay also varies dramatically from one state to another. According to ZipRecruiter, nurses make on average $55,000 a year in some states, which isn’t exactly lucrative compared to the rest of the country.
Nurses Are Quitting Droves
Nursing used to be a desirable profession for many Americans, particularly women. Studies show around 90% of registered nurses are women. But around one in five healthcare providers left the field altogether over the last two years, now dubbed “the great healthcare exodus.”
Social media is full of stories of nurses quitting their jobs on the spot. In many cases, nurses are quitting to take better care of themselves. They can often make more money for their time elsewhere without the added stress of working in pandemic conditions.
However, interest in the field remains high. Studies show many community college nursing programs have 800 applicants for only 50 openings. While the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows that enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs increased by nearly 6% in 2020, enrollment in master’s degree programs went up by 4%, and doctor of nursing practice programs saw their enrollments jump by almost 9%.
Nurses Are Routinely Undervalued by Patients
Many patients would rather be treated by a doctor than a nurse. Popular medical TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” only add fodder to this myth by showing doctors performing routine medical tasks that are usually performed by nurses, such as placing urinary catheters or removing sutures. Most doctors haven’t done this since they were in medical school.
Nurses often spend the bulk of their time providing medical care and advising patients and family members, but some patients may still prefer speaking to a doctor.
However, a recent physician-led study published in The Lancet found that nurse practitioners performed as well as junior doctors on all procedures and tasks in the emergency department, except two — taking medical history and educating patients at discharge — on which the nurses performed better.
Nursing Has Always Been Dangerous
We’ve seen dozens of reports detailing attacks on healthcare providers throughout the pandemic, many of them coming from unvaccinated patients and their family members. U.S. hospitals have increased security over the last two years, but nursing has always been dangerous and will likely continue to be so long after the pandemic goes away – unless hospitals and lawmakers can come up with a solution.
According to the BLS, nurses and other healthcare workers accounted for 73% of all injuries and illnesses resulting from nonfatal workplace violence in 2018.
The Justice Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have both reported that nurses and other bedside care providers, such as medical technicians and nursing assistants, are most at risk for an incident of workplace violence. They have held this view for years.
Nurses Aren’t Superheroes
Considering how brutal and demanding the job can be, it’s easy to see why so many people think of nurses as superheroes. Many artists and companies have depicted nurses wearing capes and masks that make it look like they can fly or have super-human strength, but this doesn’t capture the essence of what it means to be a nurse. Nurses may have a knack for performing well under stress, but that doesn’t mean they are any stronger or less vulnerable than the rest of us. They still suffer from aches, pains, stress, and fatigue.
A recent study from the University of California at San Diego showed that nurses are more at risk of committing suicide compared to the general population. Sixty-two percent of healthcare workers said worry or stress related to COVID-19 had a negative effect on their mental health.
Thinking of nurses as superheroes won’t help address the issues plaguing the healthcare industry today. We’re all only human after all.