Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion around the current nursing shortage – but this problem began in 2012, and it’s something I’ve experienced throughout my career as an emergency room physician. It’s disheartening to see fantastic and talented nurses leave our hospitals due to the demands of working in medicine. As the Chief Wellness Officer for my physician group at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Hospitals this is one of the problems I am working to address.
Through my nonprofit, L.I.F.E. we are working to support those in the medical industry with all kinds of resources such as a virtual crisis support line. We also plan to create scholarships for students wanting to enroll in nursing school to help combat the shortage.
Here are my thoughts on how we can address this nationwide nursing shortage, which is expected to last through 2030.
Increase Hospital Resources
The best way to keep great nurses in their positions and feeling their best is to provide them with adequate resources. Nurses – and everyone in the medical industry – spends several years in school to have a fulfilling career helping others, and when we’re not able to do that effectively it can be devastating. I’m seeing nurses now care for double the number of patients they should be, which is stressful and unsafe. This leads to what we in the medical industry refer to as moral injury which is linked to burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Address Individual Wellness Needs
As medical professionals, we know everyone needs something different in order to maintain their highest level of productivity and wellbeing. I believe it’s time we begin applying this to our own community. It would be ideal to have someone on staff who can provide recommendations for team members to make a work-life balance possible – whether it’s utilizing free on-site childcare, taking time away from the job or speaking with a professional about the personal or career challenges they’re facing.
De-Stigmatize Burnout and Mental Illness
Many in the medical community are afraid to share if they’re feeling burnt out or experiencing mental illness because these issues are still stigmatized in our industry. Both doctors and nurses feel they can’t share their experiences because their competency will be questioned. As a medical community, we need to move forward in recognizing that everyone needs to support their mental health and might require additional treatment from time to time. One of the best ways we can start to do this is by being open about our own struggles.
Dr. Mara Windsor is an emergency physician, philanthropist, and advocate for wellness. As former Clinical Site Director and Education Director who now serves as Chief Wellness Officer for her physician group at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Hospitals she serves as a leader in the medical industry. She also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and Clinical Assistant Professor at Midwestern University AZCOM. Seven years ago, she founded L.I.F.E. (Living in Fulfilled Enlightenment), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the physical, emotional and spiritual wellness of professionals.