Talking Magnet with ANA Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Hatmaker

Talking Magnet with ANA Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Hatmaker

The American Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet and Pathway to Excellence Conference is taking place October 12-14 in Chicago, marking the largest and most influential gathering of nurses and healthcare stakeholders in the country.

If you can’t attend, we’ve got you covered in advance as we sat down with Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Chief Nursing Officer at the American Nurses Association (ANA) Enterpriseto discuss the ANA’s role in addressing the nurse staffing crisis and how nurses can use the Magnet model to better their careers.

What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

talking-magnet-with-ana-chief-nursing-officer-debbie-hatmaker

American Nurses Association (ANA) Chief Nursing Officer, Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN

-Earlier this year, the ANA urged Congress to address the nurse staffing crisis and the work environment issues. Can you discuss the need for a national dialogue and ongoing collaboration between nurses, Congressional leaders, and other key stakeholders to support our nursing workforce, patients, and our nation’s health and well-being?  

The nurse staffing crisis continues to demand a national dialogue with nurse-led approaches to help ease the enduring work environment challenges that nurses face across numerous specialties and healthcare settings. We support enforceable minimum nurse-to-patient ratios that reflect key factors such as patient acuity, intensity of the unit practice setting, and nurses’ competency, among other variables. And this is just one part of a larger solution to solve this. 

We continue to work on addressing other challenges that have significantly made the nurse staffing issue worse, such as burnout, workplace violence, mandatory overtime, and barriers to full practice authority. 

Nearly 400 ANA members convened at the U.S. Capitol, representing the nation’s more than 4 million registered nurses, to petition Congress to address the national nurse staffing crisis this summer. In addition to advocating, ANA is also advancing solutions from the 2022 Nurse Staffing Think Tank 2022 in partnership with other leading organizations, which produced a series of actionable strategies that healthcare organizations could implement within 12 – 18 months.

We continue to advocate on behalf of nurses and remain a collaborative partner. Our goal is to empower nurses and position them for success. We continue calling on Congress to enact meaningful legislation and policies that improve nurse staffing and work environments. 

How can nurses use the Magnet Model to better their nursing leadership and shared decision-making?

The Magnet process fosters a collaborative culture that spurs shared decision-making. Magnet organizations are even provided with a multiyear framework for quality improvement and a structured way to engage staff in decision-making. This tool can help energize and motivate teams. In fact, team building, collaborating across disciplines, regular open community, and building staff engagement, while difficult to quantify, are often what happens during the Magnet process.

-What are some questions to ask before accepting a job at a Magnet hospital? Can you offer some tips for helping nurses choose which Magnet hospital to work in?

Each Magnet-recognized organization will have its own hiring standards, so each nurse should review those as they apply for or accept a position. But they should know that whatever role they fill, a Magnet organization will invest in them and their potential. At ANCC, we’ve created a free resource for nurses looking for select practice environments and interview questions to ask. 

Magnet Recognition means education and development through every career stage, which leads to greater autonomy at the bedside. A Magnet organization supports opportunities for nurses to pursue new skills and professional development, champions them in those pursuits, and rewards them for advancing in their profession. 

We’ll be at the 2023 ANCC National Magnet Conference® October 12-14 at the at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. Stop by booth #918. We look forward to seeing you there!

8 Problems Driving the Nurse Staffing Crisis

8 Problems Driving the Nurse Staffing Crisis

Today’s healthcare landscape has been riddled with hardship and systemic shifts. Large-scale downward trends were highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, but originated beforehand and will require massive effort to reverse.

Unfortunately, the brunt of these inefficiencies and problems falls disproportionately on certain portions of the medical professional family. One primary example of this is the way problems in healthcare affect nurses. The rising stresses and demands on nursing professionals have initiated a drastic nurse staffing crisis, emptying the nursing ranks across the country, and creating significant employment shortages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vacant nursing positions across the United States hover at almost 200,000 openings each year. A number of problems are contributing to this reality and need to be resolved.

1. Nurses Are Often Unreasonably Responsible for the Weight of Patient Advocacy

Historically, nurses have often taken the lion’s share of responsibility for patient advocacy. This can refer to calling for fair and adequate treatment, helping other medical professionals understand the particulars of patient cases and needs, mediating and safeguarding for vulnerable patients, and more.

However, this burden can cause a significant amount of stress, especially when a nurse feels that they are advocating for patients’ needs in the face of apathy or even resistance from fellow medical professionals who might have differing priorities.

2. COVID-19 Requirements Drove Many Nurses Out the Door

COVID-19 requirements and vaccine mandates created huge turbulence for nurses across the medical landscape. Many that disagreed with requirements or how they were put into effect left the workforce. This created another large drain on an already depleted nursing population.

3. Workplace Stress is Compounded for Nurses – It Comes from Both Sides

Nurses often liaise between patients (and their friends or families) and fellow medical staff. When tensions rise; stressful or difficult situations bring out the worst in people; or priorities differ between stakeholders in a patient’s care, nurses can find themselves caught in the middle.

They often have to diffuse the stress exuded by patients, family, partners, and friends as well as helping navigate the stress and difficulties their fellow medical personnel experience. It’s an incredibly difficult job.

4. Compensation is a Never-Ending Battle

Because nursing roles vary drastically by amount of compensation and type of contract, nurses don’t often enjoy the job security that other medical professionals do.

5. Current Inefficiencies of Healthcare System Fall More Heavily on Nurses

The nature of nursing roles means that when the medical field experiences turbulence or systemic problems, that uncertainty or strain inordinately affects nurses.

6. The Problem is Self-Propelling: Nurse Shortages Beget More Nursing Shortages

Burnout and the long-term stress of overwork is one of the most critical problems affecting the nursing population. When some nurses quit their jobs or leave a medical facility, or when open positions remain vacant for long periods of time, the existing workload falls on the nurses that remain.

This compounds the stress, overwork, and impossible expectations that remaining nurses experience, making it more likely that those remaining nurses will succumb to the stress as well and leave the workforce.

7. Pandemic’s Effects on Medical Training

COVID-19 created staggering difficulties for medical trainees across the board. Many nursing students that were in school during the height of the pandemic would have lost out on valuable class time or training weren’t able to complete parts of their coursework, or were called up early into the workforce to cover drastic needs and shortages. Many of these new nurses entered employment feeling unprepared and more susceptible to intense stress and burnout, thus ending up more likely to leave the field.

8. Average Nursing Age Looms Over Staffing Projections

The average age of nurses across the country was 50 years old in 2018. The current number of new nurses entering the workforce will not replace the large number of nursing professionals quickly reaching retirement age. If these trends do not change, projections are dire for how nursing shortages will increase over the next decade.

How to Correct These Issues

These large-scale realities are significant and systemic. It will take significant, intentional action to correct course and make the nursing profession more accessible and sustainable. If the healthcare system can take corrective action to lessen the stresses that fall on nurses, make their jobs more secure, and help spread the responsibilities nurses currently hold more collaboratively amongst other medical professionals, we can reverse these trends.

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