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How Nurses Can Cope With 12-Hour Shifts and Other Challenges

Nurses are sometimes recognized as frontline “heroes,” but they face a number of challenges in the rough-and-tumble environment they inhabit. Taxing 12-hour shifts, time-consuming charting responsibilities, harassment, a lack of mentorship, and the nursing shortage are contributing factors.

How can registered nurses (RNs) mitigate these challenges without losing their spirit? Those who earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have a number of tools at their disposal to deal with the following challenges:

  1. Long Hours and 12-Hour Shifts

    Some employers require nurses to work 12-hour shifts, which is longer than the average corporate workday. Some nurses prefer to operate on a four-day on/three-day off schedule. While some thrive in this structure, it can be detrimental to others. Research has shown that working long shifts may lead to insomnia, musculoskeletal disorders, anxiety and depression. Rotating shifts that include morning, afternoon and overnight coverage can place a nurse’s physiology in catchup mode, leading to chronic exhaustion.

    Fortunately, nurses are well-placed to address such risks. For example, the Promoting Healthy Lifestyles course as part of The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) online BSN program prepares nurses to advise their patients on habits like proper sleep practices, healthy eating and mindfulness. In doing so, nurses have that same expertise to apply to their own lives.

  2. Charting Requirements

    Accurate recordkeeping is a significant part of a nurse’s day. However, not all healthcare facilities use the same charting method, so nurses may face a bit of a learning curve as they onboard. Travel nurses routinely encounter the same hiccup.

    Compounding the issue for nurses is the lack of time for charting, leading to errors and missing information. With the evolution of electronic health records, and the technology required to maintain those records, some nurses may struggle to input the information.

    Because charting is such an important part of a patient’s overall care, the coursework in nursing bachelor’s programs helps ensure that nurses gain this skill.

  3. Bullying

    Far-fetched as it may seem, bullying and harassment do occur on nursing teams. Nursing Administration Quarterly states: “Nurse bullying is a systemic, pervasive problem that begins well before nursing school and continues throughout a nurse’s career. A significant percentage of nurses leave their first job due to the negative behaviors of their coworkers, and bullying is likely to exacerbate the growing nurse shortage.”

    The publication cites the following as examples of bullying: extreme micromanaging, verbal criticism, name-calling, insults, rumors/gossip, withholding information, unfair assignments, undesirable tasks (as punishment), sabotage and even direct threats.

    Good leaders not only recognize bullying or peer pressure when it’s occurring but also intervene to resolve the issues. The Nursing Leadership and Management course at UTA provides nurses with the skills to cope with these types of challenges within healthcare teams.

  4. Lack of Mentorship

    Once nurses complete their education and enter the field, they can feel a bit lost at times and miss the mentorship of their BSN schooling. Not every healthcare team is equipped to offer nurses the type of professional development they need to advance in their careers.

    In such situations, nurses can turn to their educational network for support. Nursing professionals can utilize previous courses, exams and networking relationships to navigate their career path. Once again, UTA’s Nursing Leadership and Management course can help nursing professionals, as can the Role Development in Professional Nursing course.

  5. Nursing Shortage Fallout

    When looking at the nursing shortage, it’s important to consider both the big-picture consequences as well as the ones faced on a daily basis. With not enough nurses to cover shifts, RNs may be required to work unwanted overtime hours. They might not have time to eat properly or even take bathroom breaks.

    Such working conditions can contribute to poor morale, job dissatisfaction, burnout and eventually the decision to leave the nursing field — further worsening the shortage on a global level. Nursing organizations and health systems are pushing for employees to earn BSNs and even higher degrees to gain career-enhancing benefits and self-help practices.

Nursing might not be glamorous or easy. With the proper preparation, however, nurses can rise to the challenge. UTA’s well-rounded BSN curriculum helps graduates acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in any environment.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program.

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