Medecin 1

Living better as a carer

17 Sep 2021

5 tips for a better life as a carer

Nearly one in two nurses feel they do not have time to do their job properly.

In the hospital sector, 80% of employees say they frequently have to interrupt their work for an unscheduled task and always or often have to hurry, compared with 46% of employees in all sectors.

Is the workload too heavy for the resources available? A profession that likes to complain?

These figures reveal problems with the quality of life at work for care staff. How can we distinguish between the two and, above all, how can we cultivate quality of life at work? This article is inspired by the work of Gollac to propose 5 behaviours to adopt for a better life at the hospital.

Soignante triste

How to measure quality of life at work?

The first step is to understand and therefore to measure. Setting up quality of work life indicators is a major public health issue. This gives us information on the determinants of quality of life at work.

Indeed, the establishment uses indicators related to working conditions (difficulty, quality of relations with colleagues, etc.), but also indicators related to health and absenteeism or career paths (continuing education, for example). The list of indicators must be specific to each situation in order to best correspond to the context of the establishment.

Several theoretical models exist. We have chosen two of them: Siegrist's and Karasek's models.

Siegrist's model aims to predict the psychological distress and health problems that can arise in the presence of an imbalance between the effort required by the work and the recognition received. Caregivers put effort into their work and expect that this work, in return, will provide them with rewards (self-esteem, feelings of self-efficacy, etc.). According to this model, the lack of reciprocity between costs and gains is likely to lead to emotional stress.

The Karasek scale aims to evaluate mental stress at work. The questionnaire measures stress at work along three axes

- psychological demand ;

- decision latitude; and

- social support at work.

A number of risk factors are defined by Gollac:

- work intensity and time

- emotional demands

- autonomy

- social relationships

- value conflicts

- socio-economic insecurity

Pyramide cailloux

Leave your luggage at the hospital.

The nursing staff is often "in the thick of it". Managing the care and administrative side of the job while responding to urgent requests and remaining available for new admissions is the nurse's daily routine. If there is not enough flexibility or support to cope, or if this complexity is not recognised, then health consequences can arise. The right balance between effort and recognition is no longer maintained. Up to a certain threshold, the increase in workload can be compensated for by changes in strategy or method, if the organisation allows it.

For example, self-esteem can be damaged when "doing fast" clashes with the caregiver's conception of "doing well". Studies using the Karasek model have shown the preponderant effect of excessive demand.

The perceived intensity of work is also the result of a series of factors such as responsibility, and we know how much responsibility the carer has. We only have to think of the errors and oversights that we, as carers, have inevitably experienced at one time or another.

A feeling that is exacerbated when the availability required increases. We have to replace a colleague at short notice during the night, we have to provide a clean service after having provided quality care. At the risk of completely destructuring our lives outside of work, we do it because we are responsible.


Acknowledge and deal with your emotions.

The core of our business is helping people. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of our profession. In the collective imagination, nurses follow their vocation with self-denial. Without even realising it, she often conforms to this image. The nurse is in contact with all forms of suffering, with the reality of bodies, and at the same time has to hide her emotions and deal with the fear of failure.

This continuous emotional pressure, which is in tension with the image that one wants to give of oneself, represents a real risk for well-being at work.

You and only you can do this. Care about your professional development. Learn continuously!

Because of their continuous presence at the bedside and their level of training, nursing staff are key players in the healthcare system. In the collective unconscious, nurses have little autonomy in medical matters and are represented as the doctor's little hand. However, everything points to the contrary and it is time to convince ourselves of the contrary.

Recent developments in advanced practice and the importance given to continuing education show this.

The feeling of control that one can have over one's work is often dependent on the recognition that one is given: an essential element for the quality of life at work. So make sure you clearly identify your added value to the health care system and claim it.

Train yourself, develop your skills and use them.

Don't be stingy with your gratitude and participate in the life of the hospital

Social relations between colleagues and relations with the institution are determinants of the quality of life at work. The watchwords are integration, justice and recognition.

Participating in the different working groups in the hospital, giving one's opinion during interdisciplinary meetings are good ways of creating a space for sharing between professionals and thus enabling professional recognition.

If sometimes the effort-reward balance is not achieved with patients, it can be achieved among peers. Make a point of looking after your relationships with your colleagues.

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Define what is ethical for you and stick to it.

There is no ethics without the expression of personal boundaries. Indeed, ethics can be defined as a choice that you will not yield to and without having to give a justification. Sometimes the demands for quality do not meet the resources available, and this is called impeded quality.

Finally, as carers, what can we do?

We certainly can't do anything about salary recognition or workload. However, we can act on the feeling of control that we have over our care. This requires us to increase the number of interactions in our profession, in order to create spaces for recognition. We can act on the organisation of the service and on the definition of our priorities. We need to work on our self-esteem and our profession. We need carers with a strong ethic who are always willing to learn in order to provide quality care.

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