Pediatric units are suffering

I have been an RN since 2013 and my specialization is Pediatrics. Our unit is small, and seemingly always teeming with sick babies, young children and teenagers. Their health conditions range from minor to life threatening. 

As it is a small unit, we have a smaller staff pool than other units, which is both a blessing and a curse. We are a tight knit group that works together to bring good health and joy to the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. But we are all worked to the bone every single day.

We have not yet suffered from layoffs but we are losing nurses to attrition from retirement and burnout. We are told that if we can cut from 6 nurses to 5 on a shift (2 on pediatric and 3 in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), they will do so and send the nurse with the least seniority home. I feel this threatens the safety of our patients, because if an unstable patient arrives, two nurses for up to 12 children is a ratio not conducive to safe and quality care.

Nurses with less seniority are seeking jobs elsewhere, because they know that they lack the seniority and will likely be the ones sent home if we downsize. When the part time nurses are getting 3 shifts in a 2 week pay period, and then they might only work a total of 1 or 2 shifts once downsizing occurs, what is the motivation for them to stay?

I am dedicated to my patients and I would lay down my life for any one of them on any given day. All the same, working among higher rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome, eating disorders, complex social issues and childhood cancers is hard enough.

With upper management looking to us to come up with ways to make the budget work, I have been questioning my career choice lately. It saddens me that I have become so disillusioned with what is happening in the current climate of nursing, to the point where I have strongly considered leaving my job.