Does anyone else feel like nursing is going down the toilet? Man, I must be getting old if I'm saying something like that.
I was speaking with some of the more experienced nurses on the unit...some have decades, plural, of experience. Don't get me wrong, they love their jobs, and they're happy people. They're not your typical grumpy nurses. But they've seen a drastic shift in how nurses can work. You used to be able to work anywhere. You used to be able to quit and come back. Moms would leave for their kids and then come back years later; people would try stints in home health or agency work and decide to come back to the unit. You had total job security.
Nursing, one of them said, used to be in the hands of the nurse. Now it's in the hands of administration.
These people were hired the day they interviewed. Some of them were told to show up in scrubs for their first job interview, in case they needed them that day on the floor.
I can't even imagine that. If I quit, I don't think I'd be able to come back. I certainly wouldn't assume it, anyway. And I wouldn't assume I could get a job tomorrow. It's not just because the job market is dismal, but because the whole hiring process is now controlled by human resources, administrators and nursing officers I don't even know, etc. Even if your boss likes you, that doesn't mean they can take you back even if there is a position open.
There are other signs, too. It seems like every few weeks there's a new requirement placed on us. Not that I mind or shirk expectations, but many of these have a concealed threat to our job; if you don't perform, you're out, because you're easily replaceable. And they know you're not going anywhere else fast. The specialty certification is like that; it's mandatory or you're fired. That wouldn't have been possible ten years ago, I don't think.
The most significant change to me was that they decided that the 36 hour week (three 12 hour shifts), long the standard full-time schedule of the RN, is no longer full time. It's considered part time, with part time benefits. That's just mind-boggling. The only way they're getting away with it is they've grandfathered in the current 36 hour people. So generous of 'em. But all new hires are like this. I can't imagine how that's going. "Want a job? Well, guess what - you're going to have to work a standard full time nurse's week, but you're only part time. Hey, do you want this job or not?" You have few other options in today's market.
It can't be just the market, though, can it? I think in the last five or ten years there's been a change in how nursing and administration have interacted, and it's not in nursing's favor. I realize administration has to run a hospital like a business, but that means that at the end of the day we're an expense rather than an asset. Despite the fact that hospitals don't exist without nurses.
I'm starting to see the appeal of unions.