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The New Nurse: Why Flexibility is the Future of Nursing

The new nurse survey by connectRN reveals how nurses are feeling lackluster about their ancillary aspects of nursing, like flexibility.

Credit: connectRN

Being a bedside nurse can feel like burnout is baked in. Examining the root of the issue, could flexibility be a viable remedy? After all, which is worse: having a hard or average shift but knowing you’re coming back the next two nights in a row?

The new nurse survey by connectRN reveals how nurses are feeling lackluster about their ancillary aspects of nursing, like flexibility. Increased flexibility might be our best bet to stave off a worsening healthcare shortage. 

What Does the New Nurse Want?

In partnership with The Nursing Beat, connectRN surveyed over 1,300 respondents to poll nurses. The study shows a key finding: The new nurse seeks flexibility.

But why?

  • Desire to juggle priorities. Nearly 90% of respondents stated that the following factors were important: maintaining their mental health, being present for their family and friends, maintaining a work/life balance, maintaining their physical health, and excelling at work.
  • Achieving work-life balance. About half of the nurses surveyed said their household management and health and fitness goals were negatively impacted by working as a nurse. About 60% of nurses feel their job interferes with their responsibilities “sometimes” or “frequently.” For those who have been a nurse for less than three years, that figure jumps closer to 70%.
  • Pursuit of other goals. While about a quarter of nurses are pursuing additional educational opportunities, more than half are interested, but their current schedule makes it infeasible.

While the new nurse seeks flexibility for all of the above reasons, they often aren’t given the opportunities to have the flexibility to do so in their traditional bedside nursing roles. For that reason, many nurses end up leaving the profession or turning to a side hustle. Nurses are free to leave or reduce their hours, but if a lack of flexibility is their primary reason, couldn’t healthcare implement a solution to prevent the mass bedside exodus?

Traditional Flexibility Constraints in Nursing

Traditional bedside nursing is often set in its ways. We scoff at the adage, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” but the statement bears true with today’s take on bedside staffing and scheduling. 

Nursing has constraints such as:

  • Having to work entire 12-hour shifts in their entirety.
  • Not being able to choose your schedule or pick your days off.
  • Sluggish PTO accruals.
  • Inability to work in a variety of different hospital systems or locations, if you want to.

For example, the 12-hour shift was implemented in the 1970s. Many nurses treasure their 12s and their associated streak of days off. But, for other nurses, those same shift lengths would give them pause before they consider picking up an extra day or before considering returning to the bedside after leaving.

This lack of flexibility can lead to:

  • Fatigue. Nurses may struggle with feeling tired at the end of their shifts. They also may need more recuperation between shifts and may be unable to indulge in that privilege, given their current schedule or financial obligations. 
  • Burnout. Researchers break down burnout into three key elements: exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. As mentioned above, lack of flexibility can cause fatigue. In addition, it can contribute to the lack of personal accomplishment because nurses may not feel they have time for self-development. They may also think they cannot succeed in their work due to their chronic fatigue.
  • Medical errors and mistakes. Studies have also concluded that longer shifts can contribute to making preventable errors. 

It’s not always the job; sometimes, it’s just the grind.

Why Flexibility is the Future 

Other industries are driving towards a more flexible future. You’ve seen the work-from-home boom and likely heard rumblings of a looming four-day workweek. To revisit the basic principles of economics and supply and demand, it’s clear that with a projected one-fifth of nurses expected to leave the profession by 2027, with continued healthcare needs, the demand will far outweigh the supply.

The only remaining choice is to innovate. There has been innovation with artificial intelligence and streamlining workflows, but this is all to reduce the demand for nurses. The only way to maintain the supply of nurses is to make nursing attractive enough to pursue or attractive enough to stay in. 

How Does Nursing Become Flexible?

Companies like connectRN are leading the movement in increasing that supply with their innovation of nurse staffing practices and flexibility. One key to establishing that flexibility is through their platform’s self-scheduling capabilities. 

Self-scheduling is beneficial for several reasons:

  • Nurses can better plan for vacations, family time, and personal development.
  • Nurses can work in a way that suits their mental health best. One nurse might prefer to work several shifts in a row, while another may want to take some time off. 
  • Nurses maintain a sense of autonomy. Self-scheduling helps nurses feel like they’re on equal footing as working professionals rather than servants to corporate healthcare systems. 

The aforementioned connectRN survey found that “Nearly all nurses who are employed by a facility and also use an agency or platform find that the agency or platform allows them more independence in building their schedule than a facility ‘sometimes’ or ‘always.’” 

The Bottom Line

Even though flexibility in nursing may feel aspirational, it should be the low-hanging fruit of healthcare. It is a simple way to show that the industry cares about its nurses and is willing to try to maintain a steady supply of nurses. 

With companies like connectRN leading the charge, hopefully, flexibility will become the future, and the New Nurse will have one more reason to stay. 

Don’t wait; check out connectRN to learn more about how to have a more flexible future starting tomorrow. 

This article is sponsored by connectRN

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