South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday May 18, 2021
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May 2021 - Volume 17 - Issue 11
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Trends in Nursing as the Pandemic Persists

COVID-19 has drawn attention to many nursing trends throughout the nation, whether pre-existing, rising in priority, or brand new to our field. As leaders, we need to understand these issues and appropriately intervene so that our profession can emerge from the pandemic stronger than when it began.

The Knowledge Gap
In particular, the existing knowledge-complexity gap aptly described by the Advisory Board is widening. The chasm between the complex patient care needs and the nurses who possess the necessary knowledge and ability to provide such care is growing. Skilled baby boomer nurses are retiring sooner than originally anticipated as a result of COVID’s threat to their own health. Residency programs, mentorships, and newly-designed methods for preparing a novice nursing workforce are opportunities that must be embraced to mitigate the risk this dilemma poses to patient care.
 
The good news is we’re in a time that respect for nurses and the challenges they face has never been higher, with the personal risks that accompany patient care during a pandemic acknowledged by those both inside and outside the healthcare industry. Media has documented the emotional, spiritual, and physical toll the last 14 months have taken on caregivers who have shared their heart-wrenching experiences. The public has lauded nurses as heroes and physicians have recognized their co-workers as their own guardians, realizing more than ever how much they depend on them. The opportunity exists, much as it did for first responders after 9/11, to harness this respect and ensure we remain valued and able to recruit talent moving forward.
 
Embracing Innovation
Unlike the past, when nurses were often derisively called "masters of workarounds" when they solved process problems, innovation is applauded now. With the ever-present threat of infection spread, inventive solutions, like externalizing equipment lines to allow adjustments without causing unnecessary risk of viral exposure, nurses earn praise. Hospital leaders need to embrace and celebrate innovation if their teams are to continue meeting the challenges presented by increasingly complicated practice environments.
 
Technological advancements in patient management are occurring at a faster pace than before and nurses must adapt accordingly. Further, using the electronic medical record to trend patient responses, leveraging technological adjuncts for safety, and using mobile devices for access to best practices are more commonplace. This is an opportunity for nursing leaders to engage frontline staff in the selection and deployment of technology to maximize the benefits it can bring to patient care.
 
The Impact of Travelers
With the rising demand for nurses and more states joining the Nurse Licensure Compact, it is now easier for travel nurse agencies to persuade nurses to leave permanent positions and work for lucrative travel contracts. Monetary incentives play a bigger role than in the past, and newly deemed competent nurses are prime targets for the travel nurse recruiters. Complicating matters for healthcare systems, hospitals are having to hire expensive travelers to fill the very gaps created by this movement. To stem the tide, we must be more creative about retaining talent, whether it be through internal programs that mirror travel contracts, extra shift incentives, hazard pay, or some combination of all to lessen the gravity of this trend.
 
Taking Care of Our Own
Even before COVID-19, caregiver resilience was a focus in healthcare in order to survive the changing market. Now, it’s a top priority because of the toll personal and professional stress has taken on those charged with providing care during a prolonged crisis. Institutions need to invest significant resources in mental health services for their nursing teams in order to mitigate the post-traumatic ramifications on the workforce.
 
Nurses are flexible, agile, and incredibly persistent. We need to leverage these attributes against the challenges we face today and in the future. It’s the only way our noble profession can maximize its impact on patient care and push past obstacles into the future of healthcare.

Maggie Hansen is senior vice president and chief nursing executive at the Hollywood-based Memorial Healthcare System. For more information, visit www.mhs.net.

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