2017 National Nurses Week: Caring for Our Caregivers

Added on May 9, 2017

NNW17_ad_250x208As a nurse for more than 30 years, a breast cancer survivor and the family member of a critically injured police officer, I have spent a good deal of time on both the giving and receiving ends of health care. My experiences on both sides have helped me appreciate the role nurses play in achieving true compassionate connected care.

More than a discrete care attribute, compassionate connected care describes the totality of a care experience. Certainly this includes the safety and clinical quality of the care, but it also includes the manner in which the care is delivered. Was it timely, efficient and easily accessible? Were questions answered and instructions fully and carefully explained? Were transitions well-coordinated? Did caregivers show understanding and compassion?

As the primary front-line caregivers, nurses are largely responsible for making sure the answer to each of these questions is “yes.” Under the best of circumstances, this is a huge responsibility. In reality, it’s a Herculean one, given that health care is generally not delivered under the best of circumstances—patients are sick or injured, they are vulnerable, they are scared and they have unique and changing needs as well as unique and changing expectations.

Rising to this challenge—not just once, but every day, with every patient—can be physically, spiritually and emotionally draining, and certainly more so without the proper organizational support.

As Press Ganey has demonstrated clearly through the analyses presented in our 2015 and 2016 Nursing Special Reports, health systems with better nurse work environments (based on composite measures that reflect workplace safety, surveillance capacity, staffing ratios, education and certification, availability of resources, nurse engagement, team culture and skill mix) have better nurse outcomes, including lower burnout rates, higher job satisfaction and lower intent-to-leave rates. Importantly, the analyses also show that patient safety and quality outcomes (e.g., fall rates, pressure ulcer rates and 30-day readmission rates) and performance on HCAHPS and Press Ganey patient experience measures are also influenced by the nurse work environment.

What the data tell us—and what front-line nurses and nurse leaders know instinctively—is that to deliver optimal care to our patients, we have to care for the caregivers. In order to be effective stewards of the patient experience, nurses must feel valued, supported and safe in their practice. The unwavering message that nurses should receive from leadership through words and actions is that their own health and well-being is as important as that of their patients.

In this regard, the theme of National Nurses Week 2017 couldn’t be more fitting: “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit.” The American Nurses Association (ANA) has designated 2017 as the Year of the Healthy Nurse, with the goal of increasing nurse wellness and well-being by encouraging nurses to “actively focus on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional well-being.”

By providing nurses the time, space and support they need to stay well, health care systems are nurturing a stronger, more resilient nurse workforce that is well-prepared to deliver on the promise of patient experience excellence.

Thank you to all of the nurses who accept the challenge of our profession and make a difference in the lives of patients every day.