A statewide survey conducted by the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) detailed the workplace interventions that nurses feel are necessary to improve their mental and emotional well-being. Aiding workplaces in developing those interventions is the central goal of OCN’s RN Well-Being Project, which launched last year and has garnered national attention for the important work it’s doing.
The project recently gathered survey responses from thousands of nurses in different work settings across Oregon. Using initial learnings from the vast dataset, OCN has created an infographic to help illustrate the urgency of the problem and inform possible solutions for workplaces. With assistance from the Oregon State Board of Nursing, the anonymous online survey was sent to about 80,000 licensed nurses. More than 5000 nurses completed the survey, said Rick Allgeyer, Research Director at OCN. Allgeyer analyzed the demographics of respondents to ensure they were representative of Oregon’s nursing workforce.
Some of the initial takeaways were striking, OCN Program Director Dawne Schoenthal said. “There were some responses that were uniform, regardless of the setting of the nurse, and that speaks volumes,” she said. Despite great differences in geography and practice settings, Oregon nurses overwhelmingly shared their stress, frustration and anger.
“Very loudly and clearly we hear nurses say that they just need more people,” Allgeyer said. Respondents also widely expressed the need for meaningful recognition of their hard work and resilience. Allgeyer’s data crunching found that 67% of respondents cannot say they’re supported at work.
By and large, the infographic reflects nurses’ near-universal desire for changes to their work environments to support their well-being, including dedicated paid time for learning, additional supervisor support, revisions to policies and procedures, and emotional health resources, Allgeyer said.
Sharing the survey … and beyond
OCN’s infographic is designed to be printed and distributed, with the hope that its messages make it onto the desks of decision-makers.
The next step for OCN is supporting projects facilitating change at individual workplaces. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has secured federal funding for OCN’s RN Well-Being Project, Schoenthal explained. Informed by the survey results, the project will award mini-grants to target interventions to help create more satisfying and healthy work environments for nurses. The goal is to enable organizations to look at “root cause interventions, not superfluous things like moving a coffee maker,” Schoenthal said.
OCN hopes the projects will unlock solutions that can then be shared with organizations around Oregon.
COVID cases down, but nursing problems persist
The survey and infographic make clear that even as health experts start retiring the word “pandemic” in favor of “endemic,” the strains on the nursing workforce remain as severe as ever. Regardless of coronavirus, an overstressed and understaffed nursing workforce presents a public health concern.
“Honestly, if we don’t have the workforce to care for our patients, then that’s a crisis,” Schoenthal emphasized. “We have sick people that are going to continue to get sick. We have an aging population and we have very little staff to care for them. That’s why this is important – so that patients, as they get sick, there will be someone there for them.”
Allgeyer expressed hope the interventions funded by OCN and its partners will make lasting improvements. “If these interventions work,” he said, “they can be used to support the nursing workforce for a long time.”
OCN is a nonprofit organization created by nursing leaders in 2002. OCN facilitates research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Recognized by the Oregon state legislature as a state advisor for nursing workforce issues, OCN fulfills its mission through nurse workforce research, building partnerships, and promoting nursing and healthcare.
Jana Bitton, MPA