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Finding joy and meaning in nursing

Christy Dempsey, Press Ganey CNO Emerita, shares a story from her initial years as a nurse that highlights the significant role nurse managers have in creating a positive work environment.

Video Summary

This personal story serves as a backdrop to discuss broader issues in nursing, such as increasing turnover rates and the anticipated departure of 30% of the nursing workforce in the next six to seven years. The narrative underscores the mission of nurse leaders at Press Ganey to assist nurses and nurse managers in improving their work without adding to their burdens, emphasizing the importance of finding joy and meaning in nursing. The nurse reflects on her career with fulfillment, highlighting the profound impact of caring for patients and their caregivers.

Video Transcript

As a young nurse, I had the opportunity to work in the neurotrauma ICU. One particularly memorable night, we admitted a patient who was a truck driver. Tragically, he had fallen asleep at the wheel, resulting in him becoming a quadriplegic. This incident was not only devastating for him but also for his wife, who was struggling to cope with the sudden and severe change in their lives.

During my shift, I found myself bonding with his wife. After my shift was supposed to end, I stayed back to talk with them, extending my support and empathy during their difficult time. However, this gesture was met with a harsh response from the assistant nurse manager who, upon arriving, shouted across the room for me to go home, stating that what I was doing was not part of my job. This incident left me devastated; I had believed that providing such support was intrinsic to my role as a nurse. Even now, 34 years later, the memory of that night remains vivid in my mind.

This experience highlights a broader issue within the nursing profession. Nurse turnover rates have seen an increase of 2% just in the last year. Looking ahead, it's projected that within the next six to seven years, we'll see a 30% reduction in our nursing workforce. This looming shortage raises critical questions: Who will take care of the patients? Who will be there for us when we, in turn, become patients?

At Press Ganey, where I now serve as a nurse leader, our mission is to support nurses and nurse managers. We aim to convey that improving the work environment and patient care does not necessarily mean adding more tasks to their already heavy workload. Instead, it's about enhancing how they perform their current duties to make their roles more manageable and fulfilling, ultimately improving patient care.

Finding joy and meaning in one's work is essential, and it's deeply connected to understanding the 'why' behind our presence in our chosen professions. For me, nursing has been an incredibly fulfilling journey. The ability to care for people—whether they're in beds, on gurneys, in waiting rooms, or those who work tirelessly to support these patients—has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I cannot imagine dedicating my life to any other profession.