4 Things That Need to Happen to Keep Nursing Afloat
- While the demand for nurses rises, we are facing one of the greatest nursing shortages.
- Changes need to happen in 2023 to promote the nursing profession.
- Some changes include greater interdisciplinary involvement, global standardization of nursing education, more collective action, and effective storytelling.
Long shifts, a lack of respect, and using outdated and time-consuming technology are only some of the challenges nurses face today. The Covid-19 pandemic magnified these difficulties in what is already considered one of the most overworked and stressful professions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for nurses to increase from 2021-2031 while experts project a significant nursing shortage by 2030. These challenges have left candidates asking if it is worth becoming a nurse.
While a nurse's professional image has taken a beating in the past decade, nursing continues to rank as the most trusted profession for the 20th year in a row, according to Gallup's ratings.
We've outlined four necessary changes for the nursing field in 2023 to help support its growth and further its development as one of the most rewarding and challenging careers in the medical field.
1 | Greater Interdisciplinary Involvement
The hallmarks of quality patient care and healthcare innovation are multidisciplinary collaboration and interdisciplinary involvement.
At the foundation of patient care, interdisciplinary teamwork is vital to improving outcomes. This holds true moving further up the ladder as healthcare institutions and governmental agencies begin reshaping the healthcare system in a post-COVID-19 world. Greater leadership and nursing involvement in healthcare innovation can reassure those wondering, "Is nursing worth it?"
Some of the healthcare issues that must be addressed include:
- High rate of preventable medical errors
- Lack of transparency in treatment
- High cost of care for low and middle-class families that have led to economic discrimination within the healthcare system
Changes to the healthcare system require an interdisciplinary approach that involves all healthcare providers along with insurance companies, public health officials, and hospital administration.
Each level within the healthcare system must be involved in healthcare innovation for program development to be successful. Nurses are an integral part of the healthcare system and need to have a seat at the table during this process.
Several factors impact interprofessional collaboration. These include communication, unequal power, respect and trust, and understanding professional roles. When communication is ineffective, interdisciplinary involvement is negatively affected.
Additionally, those working together need mutual respect and trust to be successful. This includes the destruction of the perception of unequal power within the collaborative unit.
It's not uncommon for healthcare professionals to have a vague understanding of the roles and responsibilities of others within the field. Yet, it is vital that those working within an interdisciplinary team both understand and respect each other.
A 2022 Journal of Nursing Research study in the intensive care unit found higher levels of nursing leadership were associated with increased collaboration and the perception that medical staff, patients, and families were team members.
This is yet another argument in favor of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) education for staff nurses. Increasing leadership ability also positively affects patient outcomes, which ultimately lowers healthcare costs and patient mortality.
2 | Updated Global Education Standards
During the pandemic, hospitals and other healthcare institutions relied heavily on travel nurses. This was not exclusive to the U.S. In fact, Montana hospitals began recruiting internationally to fill staff nursing positions.
This move highlights the need for nursing education to meet global standards, helping to ensure a well-educated and professional workforce. The development of stronger nursing education programs across the world requires an international framework of guidelines to promote consistency.
A 2021 National Library of Medicine report discusses the multinational methodology proposed by the State of the World's Nursing 2020 call to action. The framework assumes that entry-level nurses are prepared at the bachelor's level, and there is a global expectation for minimum standards across all nursing programs,
2020 was declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which the authors believe laid the groundwork for an evolution in the education of the global nursing workforce.
Ninety-one percent of the countries report they have nursing education standards indicating the program's duration and curriculum. One area of clinical competence that must be included in a global framework of education includes the need for information on the social determinants of health and health equity.
Understanding disparities in healthcare, including equity and social justice, can positively influence patient care outcomes. An inclusive environment prepares nurses to care for diverse patient populations, including how those populations are marginalized and oppressed. It also prepares nurses to teach health information.
To address a diverse set of global needs, education should include:
- Culturally competent care
- Motivational interviewing
- Trauma-informed care
By addressing educational standards, bachelor's programs can help prepare nurses to collaborate with other healthcare professionals. This includes participation in clinical prevention and advocating for social justice.
Nursing programs should also include how to navigate an ever-changing healthcare system and growing population with exposure to complicated cases, practice with end-of-life issues, and recognition of stress points that can lead to burnout.
3 | More Collective Action
Many of the fundamental workers' rights that are currently accepted as a standard in the U.S. were initially brought to light through unionization and labor strikes. Workers wanting to enhance their working conditions undertook collective actions and reaped significant benefits over the years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20.4% of RNs and 10% of LPNs were unionized in 2022. Nurses have cited increased pressures from their employers and the healthcare industry as the reason for unionizing or for joining the union in their institution. While some regard unions poorly, these organizations offer nurses the ability to negotiate safely with an employer.
These negotiations include:
- Advocating for a safe patient-to-staff ratio
- Policies for overtime staffing
- Negotiating for higher wages
Unions also offer the opportunity for nursing staff to collectively approach local politicians and safely speak with healthcare administrators without fear of repercussions. It is crucial for staff nurses to support their state and national nursing associations, giving them opportunities to address legislative issues that affect nursing and patient care as a collective force.
4 | Effective Storytelling
Ultimately, changing the narrative can maintain the nursing profession's effectiveness in patient care and advocacy. Although the general public continues to see nurses as trusted professionals, it is also generally recognized that there is a high level of burnout within the field.
It is not unusual for nurses to experience burnout or become tired of their workplace conditions yet still be passionate about their profession. Once nurses acknowledge that both can be true, it empowers them to create the change they need within the workplace to lower stress and improve workplace conditions. Effective storytelling by nurses helps give an authentic voice to the current realities of the profession.
Nurses can use their experience, expertise, and personal stories to engage with mainstream media. This helps people to see nurses as a source of evidence-based public health information and guidance, raising their level of expertise in the public's eyes.
Greater exposure within the media, whether mainstream media, private journalists, or nursing interviews, also exposes potential nursing candidates to the benefits of working within the field. It is worth becoming a nurse and working in this rewarding profession.
Baker, C, et. al. (2021). Global standards for professional nursing education: The time is now. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7571445/
Flaubert, JL, et. al. (2020). The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK573912/
Juraschek, S, et. al. (2019). United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31479295/
Saad, Lydia. (2022). Military Brass, Judges Among Professions at New Image Lows. https://news.gallup.com/poll/388649/military-brass-judges-among-professions-new-image-lows.aspx
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. (2021). Registered Nurses. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Press Release. (2021). Union Members -- 2021. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf
Yamamoto, K. (2022). Association Between Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Leadership Ability in Intensive Care Unit Nurses: A Cross-Sectional Study. https://journals.lww.com/jnr-twna/Fulltext/2022/04000/Association_Between_Interdisciplinary.9.aspx
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