Podcast highlights nursing workforce challenges

ASNA podcast

By Erica Techo

The COVID pandemic has exacerbated nursing workforce concerns, leading to important conversations about necessary changes and opportunities for the future.

As part of this conversation, faculty and post-doctoral fellows from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing have released a podcast that reviews findings from a 2020-2021 COVID survey conducted by the Alabama State Nurses Association (ASNA) and discusses their own research highlighting the experiences of nurses across the state.

The team of researchers, including Professor and Rachel Z. Booth Endowed Chair in Nursing Patricia A. Patrician, PhD, RN, FAAN; Assistant Professor Tracey Dick, PhD (PhD 2020); post-doctoral fellow Aoyjai Montgomery, PhD (PhD 2019); and post-doctoral fellow Courtney Sullivan, PhD, APRN, CPNP-AC, CPHON (PhD 2021), analyzed the ASNA survey results to create a more comprehensive view of responses and determine if nurses’ experience varied by work area.

“Knowing that hospitals were suffering the most during this time, we especially wanted to hear the comments from acute and critical care nurses,” Patrician said.

The ASNA COVID survey received more than 2,500 responses from nurses across care settings throughout Alabama. Many of the responses included concerns related to staffing, access to personal protective equipment, pay rate and the emotional toll of the COVID pandemic. Nurses also expressed frustrations with changing policies, mental health concerns and a fear of getting sick or getting loved ones sick.

Montgomery recently surveyed nurse leaders, finding that nurse managers, nurse executives and others also had heightened burnout rates related to the pandemic.

“I cannot emphasize enough how much we need to focus on the nursing work environment,” Montgomery said. “We need an intervention at the organizational level to help improve the work environment, which can lead to reducing and preventing burnout among nurses and nurse leaders.”

Overall, the research team says the ASNA survey results highlight the importance of listening to nurses’ voices. They hope nurse leaders will share these findings with their staff and administration to determine their organization’s needs and work locally toward solutions.

“Most nurse leaders will likely be keenly aware of these issues, as they have lived them with their staff on the front lines throughout the pandemic,” Sullivan said. “It is also important to recognize the measures that leaders have taken to support their staff and lead amidst changing policies and practices, short staffing and the risk of potentially exposing themselves and their loved ones. We hope that the public and health policy leaders may be inspired by these study findings to recognize and honor nurses and other health care professionals, as they did early in the pandemic, for their endurance, commitment and fortitude.”

The research team is continuing to work with ASNA’s Council on Professional Issues to discuss next steps. They are planning a follow-up survey and have plans for possible interventions to improve the work environment for nurses. Patrician and her team have received a $2.3 million HRSA grant to develop and implement the Workplace Engagement for Compassionate Advocacy, Resilience, and Empowerment (WE CARE) program to address and improve mental health and well-being among nursing personnel at UAB Medicine with the potential to spread evidence-based wellness and resilience interventions throughout the state.

“The pandemic has amplified for us many opportunities for system-level change,” Dick said. “In Alabama, that includes transforming work environments, providing competitive financial compensation and educating others, including our Alabama policy makers, about the work nurses do. So that is where we go from here. We continue to advocate for change through the sharing of research findings and other trustworthy information.”

The podcast episode is available on the ASNA COVID resources page.

Last modified on March 07, 2022

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