A Nurse Who Worked to Death

NurseTogether.Com

By: Lorie Brown

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With many hospital staffing cuts today, professional nurses end up clocking in longer shifts and skipping breaks. And as the tragic story of Beth Jasper shows, it has horrible consequences.

Beth Jasper, a 38-year-old registered nurse at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, was one of the few nurses at that facility who was certified to work on the dialysis machines in the bone marrow transplant unit. In 2011, Jewish Hospital came under the ownership of Mercy Health Partners of Southwest Ohio and subsequently made staffing cuts.

This nursing shortage caused Beth’s shifts to be extended, routinely and significantly exceeding the hours for which she was scheduled.  Frequently, she was called into work during her off time and often asked to work extra shifts. She would work through her breaks and sometimes would hold off bathroom breaks for extended periods of time. She did inform her supervisor that she was under great stress and that she was “being worked to death.”

After a long shift, Beth was driving home in the early hours of March 16, 2013, when her vehicle suddenly left the road and crashed into a tree. She was survived by two children and her husband who has since filed a suit regarding her death. This is so tragic that it’s difficult for me to even write about this.

Who is Liable?

I’m not going to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. What I want to share is that I am in no way blaming Beth Jasper for what happened. As nurses, we feel such a loyalty to our hospital or facility and such a dedication to our patients that sometimes we feel that we have no other choice. It’s a really difficult job market for nurses and nurses are afraid to even say something.

What would have happened if Beth refused to come in on her off shifts? What would have happened had she refused to stay late? What would have happened if she refused to work extra shifts? Would the hospital have found somebody else willing to work all those hours? Would someone else have agreed to do it? These are all questions that have no answers.

But what is known is that Beth was experiencing too much stress and that she was working an excessive amount of time. She knew she was not taking her breaks, not eating, and wasn’t even taking time to go to the restroom during her shifts. We also know that research shows that the quality of patient care drops when professional nurses are stressed out, burned out and work excessive hours.

Empowering Nurses, Empowering Ourselves

So what can we do to avoid suffering the same fate? It starts with empowerment, something that no law can automatically guarantee. Always keep in mind these excerpts from the Empowered Nurses Bill of Rights:

  • Go home feeling like you did a good job;
  • Not be pushed to work overtime because there is no one else;
  • Not be made to feel that they cannot call in sick when they are really ill;
  • Adequate staffing so that everyone has time to do what each patient requires, including psychosocial support;
  • A fair schedule with an equally number of holidays and hours compared to co-workers.

It is important for nurses to be empowered now, more than ever! Are we going to allow the legal system to decide the fate of our profession? Are we going to allow the legislature, mostly made up of lawyers, to impose rules on our profession?

Where I practice, the Indiana legislature has not mandated minimum staffing. But, if it did, would it help?  What if the patients have a much higher acuity? The minimum staffing could hurt us because based on acuity, we should have more staffing.

Are we going to let unions decide our fate? I am not sure if Jewish Hospital is unionized but I am aware that hospitals in Ohio are unionized.

Instead, it is up to us to take back our profession. It is up to us to stand up and say, “We’re not going to tolerate this anymore! We are not going to do mandatory overtime!  We are not going to come in when we are ill! We are not going to be forced to stay late or work extra shifts.”

Until nurses stand in their power and take control of their profession, nurses will continue to get burned out, unhealthy and sick. The worst part of it is that we are not able to provide the best patient care under those conditions.

3 Types of Nurses at Work That Drive Us Nuts!!!

NursingTogether.Com

By: Jennifer Ward

Every day we meet a lot of various types of people. But handling different types of nurses at work can be a daunting task. It can be very frustrating working with lazy, difficult co-workers who don’t pull their weight. If you have been in this profession for any length of time, you know who I am talking about. Here are three types of co-workers that drive me nuts:

The Off-Duty Charge Nurse
This is the charge nurse who browses the Internet or reads a magazine while you are working. It can be frustrating trying to complain to management about this, and the only thing you can really do to protect yourself and your patients is to document that you have made him or her aware. If a situation is emergent, inform the house supervisor. If you are too overwhelmed with your demands, ask a co-worker for help. This doesn’t mean that you are incompetent. It just means that you are having “one of those days” and you will repay the favor when they have “one of those days.”

The Complainer
This is my least favorite. Every nursing unit has one. They express their complaints about everything: their assignment, the nurse aides, the patients, the weather…anything and everything. I usually try to change the subject and not give in to their complaining, or I just distance myself from them.

The Constant Talker
This is the nurse who is incapable of being silent and focusing on the job at hand. No matter what you are doing or how busy you are, they will insist on telling you all of their history and personal information. There are a few things you can do:

  • Avoid making eye contact. Keep doing whatever you were doing; just answer with, ”Uh-huh.”
  • Move to another area. Especially if you are charting, move to a quiet room so that you document effectively without interruption.
  • Ask, “Are you already done with your charting?” Sometimes dropping these sorts of hints helps clue them in to stop chatting and to get moving.
  • Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, but in order to create a more positive nursing work environment that runs smoothly, these tips can be helpful:
    • Stay positive.
    • Avoid gossip, and avoid being a “tattle tale!
    • Keep complaints to a minimum.
    • Be supportive of new staff to establish productive and successful nursing unit.
    • Help out nurse aides whenever possible. This demonstrates teamwork.
    • Help out overwhelmed co-workers.
    • Offer compliments followed by constructive criticism.
    • Acknowledge a job well done-show or tell them that you appreciate them and their performance.
    • Make an effort to get to know staff. Simply ask if they had a nice weekend or invite a newbie out to lunch.
    • Never criticize or punish in public. If someone deserves criticism or being punished, do so in private or with only another manager present. Also document the discussion and the outcome. Properly address mistakes to build teamwork in nursing.

Creating a work environment with positive energy can be challenging. After all, there are many different personalities that make up our workforce. Properly dealing with different types of nurses will help you gain respect and increase you work satisfaction. Do you have co-workers who drive you nuts? How do you handle them?

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STOP giving BAD NEWS to the oncoming shift!

Have you ever got to work and before you could even get to your locker you have everybody coming up to you saying how bad of a shift it was for them? Did you answer yes? Well, so did I and it completely changed my mood for a second! I had to think and say to myself, “I won’t let someone else’s negative energy (Fake Encouragement) affect me.” I knew that if I let their comment sink in and fester that it could affect my shift.

Why is it that just because you had a bad shift, you have to make others feel sorry for you? Or get them upset by predicting how their shift will turn out? (Telling someone, “Oh this patient was horrible and his family isn’t no better” is not the proper nor professional way of giving information or report. Try saying, “This patient was not very compliant for me, even after giving his medication. Nothing really calmed him down except for when his family was not around, they seem to get him worked up a bit. I suggest you ask them to leave early so he can calm down a bit for you once you give him his meds.”) If you know what will and what will not work for a certain patient why not help your next shift out by giving them some helpful tips to make things easier for them. Maybe next time when they are giving report to you they can do the same in return.

As caregivers we have to look out for one another, which is something that is not done often. Why wish someone a bad shift or say it’s going to be horrible or that the patient they have is a total mess. Maybe if you took the time out to handle things properly instead of getting frustrated with the patient and his family, your shift could have been better or at least easier. If you do not have time to straighten things out then have someone else do it who has time or let the new shift know that maybe trying some other alternatives to help with the non easy patient & family members.

No part of nursing is really easy so why make it harder on yourself or your co-workers…..

Separate we have purpose, Together we have POWER. ~Sylette

Doctors, Nurses, Aides, Phlebotomist, Housekeeping & Nursing students ==> *A note to yourself, “STOP giving BAD NEWS to the oncoming shift! Don’t put them in a bad mood before they even start because it can affect how they act towards or treat their patients.”