With National Nurses Week beginning May 6, and nurses continuing to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report on 2022’s Best & Worst States for Nurses shows where nurses can find the best place to practice their vocation.
To help new nursing graduates find the best markets for their profession, WalletHub compared the relative attractiveness of the 50 states across 21 key metrics. The data set ranges from monthly average starting salary for nurses to health-care facilities per capita to nursing-job openings per capita.
Navigating Through a Crisis
Given the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on frontline healthcare workers, what are the best ways the authorities and local non-profit organizations can support nurses and all medical personnel to navigate this crisis?
“States can make health care professional licensure span state borders, so nurses, doctors, and others can immediately work where they are most needed … States can develop loan repayment programs for health care workers who work in shortage areas or offer scholarships to students in training to work locally after they graduate. Several states are considering implementing safer staffing guidance, limits or bans on mandated overtime, and zero-tolerance policies for violence directed toward health care workers. These are evidence-based, common-sense policies to support health care workers.
“There is not much money in health systems and other employers for health care worker support services. Non-profits can partner with the healthcare organizations in their area to augment the supports they provide to healthcare workers,” said Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., RN, AOCN®, FAAN, professor; director: Center for Improving Patient and Population Health, University of Michigan.
“Appreciation goes a long way. Nurses want to be appreciated. At this point, however, it must go beyond words … Paying nurses their value, incentivizing workers through retention bonuses, and making room at the table for nurses to have a voice concerning what is important to them is a start. It is discouraging to hear leaders tell nurses that we need to be more resilient, that there needs to be a cap on the amount of money we can be paid for the work we do, and that in many states we are not allowed to practice our skills to the full scope of our licenses … Authorities and local non-profit organizations can reach out to nursing organizations to learn about the needs of nurses and decide how to best help. The American Nurses Association is a good place to start. They have chapters in every state and often have local chapters,” added LaTashia Kiel, DNP, RN, CEN, clinical assistant professor, the University of Texas at Austin.
Burn Out Numbers
Before the pandemic, nurses were already facing a high burnout rate, with nearly four out of 10 nurses reporting they felt burned out. What are some strategies for combating nurse burnout during the pandemic?
“In terms of systems responses, staffing is number one! Policies that reduce workplace violence and workplace bullying, and that provide regular rest breaks, spaces for quiet reflection, and other benefits that improve mental and physical health can make headway in reducing burnout,” said Robin Fleming, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, assistant teaching professor, University of Washington, Bothell.
“The most important thing is for health care systems and employers to step up and listen to their employees and act on their concerns. We need to reject the idea that building ‘worker resilience’ will solve the problem. Nurses are delivering care and serving communities in broken systems. We must commit to doing the tough but necessary work of redesigning the work to eliminate the barriers to great nursing care. We have heard that nurses want more flexibility, so employers need to build that into their systems. I also expect that financial officers will need to do the very hard work of restructuring compensation and benefits packages for nurses. The pandemic taught us that nurses are fiercely loyal to their profession, but they will leave employers if they perceive they are not being treated well,” Friese said.
Tips and Such
What tips do you have for recent nursing school grads looking for a place to live and work?
“For acute care, talk to current new graduate nurses and search out hospitals that have achieved Magnet designation which demonstrated the highest achievement for nursing excellence. Also, determine whether the hospital offers a nurse residency program that demonstrates that the administration is committed to reducing new graduate nurse turnover, especially among new graduates which are costly for the hospitals and also contribute to burnout of nurses.
Also, think beyond the box – it is not essential to land a hospital job as a first job – there are a lot of other opportunities in sub-acute and long-term care where new graduates are allowed more time to think and sharpen nursing skills and care for vulnerable populations. Specialties such as long-term care sometimes allow new graduates more autonomy than a hospital in which the new graduate can further develop critical thinking skills that will further their development as a nurse,” said Pamela B. de Cordova, Ph.D., RN-BC, associate professor, Rutgers.
“While imperfect, Magnet Hospitals have demonstrated to a group of external reviewers that they have several components in their workplaces to support professional nursing practice. So, it is often useful for new graduates to begin their careers in Magnet facilities. Similarly, many hospitals are offering structured nurse residencies to support the transition from student to clinical nurse. I would ask questions about the orientation and professional development processes.
I would ask about funds for continuing education and ask about recent turnover rates and plans in place to retain and support nurses. If a facility offers you the opportunity to shadow for a day, take them up on it to learn more about the population, the care model, and the team,” Friese said.
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