I am a Labor and Delivery nurse. I have been a nurse for 7 years and a Labor and Delivery nurse for 6 years. L&D has become a part of my identity. I love that I know how to care for people and keep them safe while they bring their babies into this world. However, even with my passion for the work, I am contemplating leaving it all behind.
As an L&D nurse, I get to see a side of humanity that is vulnerable and authentic. I am with people during their best and worst moments in life and then I get to coach them and keep them safe. I know that even as the families blur together in my memory, that the patients will remember the nurse that helped them through those hard and scary times. The fact that I am able to be a part of this experience makes me proud and fills my heart with joy. The people that I work with share this special ability. I see the connection they are able to make with people after a matter of hours and I see the value a nurse has on the individual and the entire healthcare system. Nurses and techs are the backbone of the healthcare team. They are the caregiver that spends the most time with the patient, they are the ones that give the patient the memorable experience, and they are the ones that catch the first sign of a potentially life threatening diagnosis.
With all this being said, I don’t think that my bedside nursing is serving me anymore and I know that this is a sentiment that many of my colleagues feel. All around me, people are quitting or going back to school because they don’t feel valued at work and don’t see room for growth within their field. I have recently heard more of this same kind of story in the news, which helps me understand that this is an issue that is nationwide. We call healthcare workers our heroes, however we don’t treat them like heroes. Nursing is hard work and the people that choose to make it their career know that they will work hard to make a difference in the lives of individuals, however many of us are finding that we don’t get enough back. The pay is not enough to support a family, the benefits do not set you up for retirement, there are not opportunities for career growth, there is not enough emphasis on work/life balance, and often there is not enough staff to allow a lunch break on a 12 hour shift.
I worry that many of our most skillful and hard working nurses and techs will leave for a job or career that shows them more appreciation. This will affect the hospital's profits and reputation. Without competent nurses and techs, patient care will decline which will reflect poorly on the hospital. If staff continue to leave in masses, there will not be enough people to care for patients and the hospital will have to spend excess money training more people because of the high turnover rate. Nurses and techs will prioritize going to different states that have better benefits and overall treatment. I believe there is a way that hospitals can continue to make money, while still supporting their staff in the ways that maintain staff retention. However, it has to come from a change in the culture from the top. Make bedside nursing and tech jobs fields that people want to stay in because they love their job, they are good at it, they feel supported by their hospital and they see room for growth in their career. I would be happy to discuss specific ways that I think improvements could be made in our hospital at your convenience. I also urge communities to step forward and demand that hospitals invest more in their nurses and techs to ensure that when you come to the hospital there are enough staff and support to care for you and your loved ones.