Sadly, few of us understand the critical role nurses play in our healthcare system, their roles overshadowed by those of the physicians.
Nurses are often overworked and overtaxed emotionally, a lesson we learned during 15 years of marriage to a passionately dedicated registered nurses.
In France, nurses have responded to the pressures of their jobs with a nationwide job action, a movement we entirely support.
Striking nurses are holding protests across France on Tuesday in what was described as an “unprecedented” movement aimed at raising the alarm call about the state of their profession.
France is renowned worldwide for the quality of its health service, but nurses in France might have something to say about that.
On Tuesday hospital staff held protests across the country including a march from Montparnasse to the Health Ministry in Paris to demonstrate their growing anger at their worsening conditions of work.
Other hospital workers joined the protests.
Various nursing unions were due to hold talks with health minister Marisol Touraine. She may have difficulty quelling their anger which is focussed in various areas: lack of investment, lack of staff, being overworked, no time for patients.
In September nurses called for action after a wave of suicides that were believed to be related to the stresses of the job.
Studies affirm the critical roles of nursing
During out years of marriage, we heard countless stories about medication errors in physician hospital orders, sometimes errors that would have cost patients their lives had not attentive nurses spotted them.
We also heard stories we can personally verify about the critical role nurses play in encouraging patients to comply with regimens essential to their well being, including dietary orders to diabetic patients. One patient, an internally known celebrity, owed her life to our then-spouses admonitions.
But don’t just take our word for it.
One major study published earlier this year concluded:
Nurses play a unique yet invisible role in identifying, interrupting and recovering medical errors.
Another, earlier study reached a similar conclusion:
Nurses’ vigilance and adoption of precaution measures about medication errors are key factors for preventing medication errors.
Yet another study noted the role of nurses in determining the outcome of patient hospitalizations:
Studies have repeatedly found that the practice environment in which nurses work is a determining factor in nurse and patient outcomes. These studies find that the distinguishing attributes of Magnet hospitals are present in where nurses have high levels of job satisfaction and have low levels of burnout where the practice environment is poor, nurses working in hospitals with good work environments have the benefit of adequate staffing and patients in these hospitals have better outcomes.
From yet another major study:
Staffing adequacy directly affected emotional exhaustion, and use of a nursing model of care had a direct effect on nurses’ personal accomplishment. Both directly affected patient safety outcomes.
Conclusions: The results suggest that patient safety outcomes are related to the quality of the nursing practice work environment and nursing leadership’s role in changing the work environment to decrease nurse burnout.
Then consider this from a research brief from the Center for Studying Health System Change:
Nurses are “the largest deliverer of healthcare in the U.S.,” according to a representative of an accrediting organization, and as hospital participation in quality improvement activities increases, so does the role of nursing. Universally, respondents described how vital nurses are to hospitals; that nursing care is a major reason why people need to come to a hospital. As one hospital CEO said of nurses, they are the “heart and soul of the hospital.”
Finally, we offer this conclusion from another major study, this one focusing on the role of hospital employee satisfaction and patient outcomes:
[H]ealth care organizations that provide a good working environment which enhances the service capability of staff through empowered decision making will lead to more satisfied nurses who are more likely to remain loyal to the organization and provide a higher level of care resulting in higher patient satisfaction. Organizations that desire to improve patient satisfaction must therefore be concerned about internal issues related to employee satisfaction and view their employees as customers too. A connection appears to exist between how engaged an employee is with the employee’s role in the patient care process and the level of patient satisfaction. This interrelationship affects not only satisfaction levels but also patient loyalty and financial performance.
So support your local nurses as though your life depended on it, because some day it might.