Aileen Fajardo, MSN, RN, championed a nurse well-being initiative at UChicago Medicine AdventHealth La Grange. [PC: UChicago Medicine AdventHealth]

May 1, 2024

Nursing Offers Multiple Paths for Achieving Sense of Purpose

Aileen Fajardo comes from a family of nurses. Growing up, her mother and three aunts worked as nurses.

When she enrolled in prerequisite nursing courses during college and volunteered at a hospital system where her mother worked, Fajardo began to understand the sense of purpose that a nursing career can provide. 

Now, after 12 years as a nurse, Fajardo can’t see herself doing anything else. 

Fajardo feels a strong sense of purpose in her current role as assistant nurse manager in the medical-surgical unit at UChicago Medicine AdventHealth LaGrange. Her job, which she called “the in-between,” involves managing five staff nurses and two or three patient-care technicians in the 24-bed unit, while caring directly for patients whenever necessary. “If we’re really busy, I jump in, care for them and interact with them, which I’ve always enjoyed,” she said. 

Fajardo’s role has also allowed her to become involved in policymaking at the hospital. She serves as co-chair of the hospital’s Professional Nursing Practice Committee and championed a nurse well-being initiative launched in 2023 to combat burnout and reverse attrition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I feel like I can make a bigger difference for my staff and our nurses overall while not being too far from the bedside,” Fajardo said.  

The well-being initiative seeks to create a better environment by identifying and addressing stressors that negatively affect nurses’ well-being. Last summer, medical-surgical nurses completed an online survey focused on six well-being categories: quality of life, meaning in work, work/life integration, likelihood of burnout, severe fatigue and risk of suicidal thoughts.  

The results have enabled Fajardo and other nursing leaders to pinpoint workflow issues that cause nursing stress. To resolve these issues, they collaborate with leaders of hospital departments whose workflows intersect with nursing. Already, they have started to see some improvements.  

Additionally, nurses are provided resources for help with specific issues after completing the survey and receive both overall and category-by-category well-being scores. They can retake the survey every month or every few months, track their scores and compare them against averages. 

Fajardo, who is married and has two young children, shares how her own well-being scores were eye-opening. “I didn’t realize how bad my work-life balance was,” she said. But with the support of her managers, she has taken steps to improve her overall well-being. 

Fajardo was heartened to see other nurses and leaders doing the same. “It has been nice to see that people actually have been using the information they’ve received to do something about it – and that the whole organization is backing us up on this, too.” 

Julie Busch, associate vice president, marketing and communications at AdventHealth in Great Lakes Region