AHRQ Views: Blog posts from AHRQ leaders
Embracing the Joy in Nursing
Great things are accomplished when people work as a team. As a nurse practitioner in the Army, I worked with active duty service members to optimize their physical and mental health in preparation for war, and I was humbled and proud to provide health care to families when their loved ones were deployed.
When I was on the nursing frontlines, I had a high level of work-life satisfaction, a low level of burnout, and a feeling of fulfillment. I belonged to teams whose members understood that the greatest accomplishments result from pulling together and tackling a common objective.
I've been recalling these memories as we kick off National Nurses Week, May 6 to 12. This year's theme, "Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit," reminds me that nurses who find that balance are the ones who find satisfaction in their work.
Every professional experiences ups and downs, of course, and nurses are no exception. At the frontlines of care, nurses often feel joy when they provide evidence-based care in an environment that is focused on patients and based on relationships. Like many clinicians, nurses thrive on their connections with patients and the professional vow to provide the best possible care. If those connections are lost, whether due to time constraints or other factors, a nurse may drift into burnout and eventually, a loss of joy.
Burnout, which unfortunately is quite common among health care professionals, can diminish clinician and patient satisfaction. Left unaddressed, it can also compromise patient safety.
More and more, the health care community recognizes that burnout is minimized when nurses work in environments that honor empowerment and teamwork. Patient-centered, team-based care helps to improve patient safety and outcomes, enhance communication with staff, patients, and families, and improve professional satisfaction. Here are four tools offered by AHRQ to encourage these important principles:
- TeamSTEPPS® is an evidence-based system that helps health care teams improve communication and protect patient safety. It includes strategies for communicating critical information, including during patient handoffs. Several versions of TeamSTEPPS are available, including for office-based and long term care teams.
- The Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Quality and Safety supports hospital staffs' efforts to partner with patients and families to improve quality and safety. It includes a nurse bedside shift report to ensure the safe handoff of care between nurses by involving the patient and family. A similar guide for primary care practices is in development.
- Our SHARE Approach Workshop curriculum trains health care professionals to engage patients in shared decisionmaking. Clinicians report that shared decisionmaking often leads to an improved clinician and patient experience. Patients who are engaged in decisionmaking, meanwhile, also report improvements in care and are more likely to follow treatment recommendations.
- Our Effective Health Care Program provides research summaries that nurses can use in discussions with patients about the benefits and risks of treatment options for a variety of health conditions. These publications help nurses share the evidence on treatment options while encouraging patients to consider their individual circumstances and values.
I became a nurse because I wanted to heal the sick. I also wanted to help people and communities foster healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve their own health and welfare. When I think of my work at AHRQ, I'm proud to be part of an Agency that not only supports the passion that nurses bring to care, but also understands that nurses contribute most when their work lives are satisfying—and, yes, marked by joy.
Dr. Ricciardi is AHRQ's Senior Nursing Advisor.