Four career challenges for freelance nurses – and how to overcome them

Nursing can be a tough job. They have devoted their career to the care of others, but who takes care of them? Here are four challenges freelance nurses face, and how they can be overcome.

Studies have found that nurses are leaving the profession within the first three years, with many noting exhaustion and stress as the main reasons for their departure. Although nursing is a rewarding role in the healthcare industry, there are many challenges that nurses face that sometimes outweigh the good.

From demanding 12-hour shifts with no breaks and inadequate working conditions to potential medical mistakes, nurses must know how to deal with any trialling experiences. 

Below we look at four key issues nurses face, and smart strategies to overcome them.

1) Feeling overworked (and underpaid)

Unlike office work, nursing shifts usually last up to 12-hours. With 79% saying that facilities lacked sufficient staff, nurses are enduring gruelling long shifts with not much break in between to make up for the loss in numbers. 

As nursing provides an important service to the public, shifts are long and at unsociable hours, but it’s vital that nurses receive the same level of protection against being overworked as every other industry. Many nurses experience burnout, leading to stress, tiredness and even depression – 18% of nurses experience symptoms of depression, twice the amount of other professions. 

Despite the long hours, nurses are vastly underpaid, which results in further feelings of under-appreciation, and is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why many are choosing to leave the profession.

It is therefore up to administrators and managers to ensure that staffing levels are appropriate. They can do so by making sure the ratio of nurses to patients is sufficient, as well as encouraging staff to take frequent breaks. 

Managers can even promote a better work-life balance with longer breaks in between shifts, which can in turn improve staff performance and reduce unplanned absences, as nurses will be well-rested and looking after themselves. 

2) Medical negligence and legal action

Unfortunately, medical mistakes can be made. It is every medical professional’s worst nightmare to be involved in a procedure that has negative consequences for the patient, and for legal action to be taken, but it is a challenge that nurses should be aware of when entering the profession.

Nurses must understand the legal ramifications of the field of nursing they are in, as they can differ throughout the medical industry. An example is the case of legal action after a birth injury, as there are time limits for proceedings that differ from most other personal injury claims. 

In this case, “if a parent suffers the injury there is usually a two-year time limit to begin legal proceedings, whereas the time limit is much longer if the child suffers an injury at birth,” says McCarthy + Co, “if nurses have a medical negligence claim against them, it is important for them to work with solicitors who have worked on similar cases.”

If nurses see or experience something that poses a safety risk, they must be proactive and make their voice heard. 

3) Working conditions can be inadequate

Nurses regularly find themselves working under inadequate conditions. This includes not having time to ensure they have nutritional food and drink, enduring physical or verbal abuse while working, and not having access to free parking while they work 12-hour shifts. 

Acknowledging that healthcare facilities can be a stressful environment for patients and colleagues alike, nurses must ensure they communicate with their peers and make time to recuperate and hydrate in order to feel ready for any challenges they might imminently face. 

4) The work can be physically demanding

Nursing is a physically demanding job. Many spend most of their 12-hour shifts on their feet, and although they have access to equipment such as mechanical lifts, nurses are expected to help lift patients. 

This means that many nurses experience a high level of work-related injuries. A study of 1000 nurses found that 74% of them experienced pain while at work, and yet nurses are still reluctant to take sick leave, as they do not want to put more strain on their colleagues.

Management therefore must affirm the importance of recovery, and nurses must communicate effectively when lifting patients or struggling with injuries. 

Nurses need to care for themselves too

Nursing is an incredible job and can be a very rewarding career. Nevertheless, there are challenges that nurses must be aware of when entering the profession.

The healthcare industry focuses on the health of others, and nurses need to ensure they look after themselves, too. Remembering the importance of taking breaks and recuperating after injury or illness is one of the best ways for nurses to guarantee they are looking after their mental and physical wellbeing. 

This means less chance of medical mistakes too, but nurses must also educate themselves on how to deal with any mistakes that may, unfortunately, happen throughout their career.

Nurses work hard to support patients, and the healthcare industry should give them just as much support, including helping them strategize their career challenges.

Photo by Hush Naidoo