The world is currently experiencing a global nurse shortage, with The International Council of Nurses (ICN) projecting a potential shortfall of 13 million nurses worldwide by 2030, and the number could be higher once the full effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are known.
The past year has been especially hard on nurses, who have been working long hours in full PPE caring for critically ill patients, while worrying that they could be bringing the virus home and putting their own families at risk. Nursing burnout remains a real problem, as hospitals in the U.S. continue to see high volumes of Covid-19 patients and demanding workloads.
Some 90% of nursing associations told the ICN they’re concerned heavy workloads, insufficient resources, and pandemic-related burnout are all driving an increasing number of nurses to leave the profession or consider leaving when the pandemic is over.
To combat this crisis head on, it is imperative that we address issues like burnout and gaps in training, to support those nurses currently on the frontlines while attracting new talent to the profession. The industry can help reverse the trend by empowering nurses with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
As a former Dean of Nursing, I know the importance of education and training to set nurses up for success. I believe that by combining education with access to the latest technology and mental health resources, we can help “stop the bleed” with nursing turnover.
Why Empower Nurses?
Nurses are typically the first point of contact with patients, oftentimes responsible for making critical treatment decisions in a fast-paced environment. To ensure nurses feel confident in making those decisions, it is important that they have access to the latest evidence-based data and treatment plans. Hospitals and other medical facilities need to invest in the latest forms of technology, along with the training to properly use it. Not only will this investment allow nurses to quickly make appropriate treatment decisions, but it will ultimately drive better patient care.
Employers must also recognize the rising demands and pressure that nurses are experiencing, and how continued education and training can provide nurses with the latest knowledge and skills to perform well in their roles. Providing resources that promote ongoing learning will allow nurses to keep up with the latest standards of care, further develop clinical judgement skills and continue to build their confidence in making patient-related decisions. Access to these trainings will help provide support to nurses currently in practice while motivating the next generation of nurses.
The Impact of Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the ways in which patients interact with healthcare professionals, including nurses, and technology is playing a big role.
Nurses are responsible for recording and managing large amounts of clinical and healthcare data. Integrated clinical decision support (CDS) tools, along with electronic health records, enable nurses to monitor and access patient data, helping them to make better, well-informed patient care decisions. However, proper training for these tools is necessary to allow nurses to perform their jobs effectively while improving patient outcomes.
Technology has also transformed the delivery of education for new and seasoned nurses alike. Simulation-based education that leverages virtual reality and augmented reality lets nurses experience real-life patient scenarios. These platforms allow nurses to practice standardized care and enhance their clinical judgement skills, ultimately improving their decision-making abilities and decreasing stress.
To help nurses feel well prepared for different patient scenarios, Hospitals and employers need to invest in technologies that provide nurses with training and career development. Not only will patient outcomes improve, but nurses can feel more supported as they continue to work on the frontlines.
Providing Support through Educational Resources
There’s been a shortage of nursing faculty members at the higher ed level for several years, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened during the pandemic, with nurses being stretched thin from working extra hours at hospitals and unable to serve as faculty members. As a result, nursing programs are turning away more applicants, even as the demand for nurses is increasing.
Technology educational solutions, such as simulation-based learning, offers nursing students a way to develop their skills and practice standardized care in a safe environment, where making mistakes is okay. These solutions also assist new nurses with the transition from the classroom to the professional setting, an important factor as some hospitals report turnover rates as high as 35% within the first year of employment.
Another challenge for higher ed is that nursing students need to begin preparing for changes to the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX exam), which will measure clinical judgment and reasoning skills starting in 2023. Cutting-edge educational technology platforms offer students an engaging way to finetune skills and boost confidence all while preparing for the NCLEX.
Now is the time for nursing programs to empower their students with the confidence and clinical reasoning skills they’ll need when they enter practice. As nurses develop these skills early in their education and careers, they’ll be better prepared for different scenarios, helping to reduce stress and turnover rates.
Mental Health Resources Geared Towards Nursing Professionals
Nearly 80% of national nursing associations have received reports about mental health distress from nurses caring for COVID-19 patients, according to an ICN survey. Similarly, a study by the American Association of Nurses (AAN) conducted a year after the pandemic uncovered similar findings: Nurses continued to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders linked to occupational stress, the association said.
Despite this serious issue, many employers have not yet provided nurses with the proper level of mental support, or nurses are unsure where to access resources. Employers need to offer nurses resources to handle their mental health issues and concerns. It begins with hospital leaders listening to their nursing staff to understand what they’re going through and what they need in terms of support.
From there, leaders need to design and implement policies and programs that can best address the mental health needs of nurses. Rolling out and promoting such programs and resources can yield benefits including improved workplace efficiencies, reduced burnout, and higher retention levels.
Support Is Crucial to ‘Stopping the Bleed’
It’s imperative that we provide nurses who tirelessly care for patients with the skills, tools, and ongoing support they deserve. This will allow them to effectively perform their jobs, improve patient outcomes, and maintain a better work-life balance.
This support is not only crucial to “stop the bleed” that’s contributing to the global nursing shortage but is critical to attract the next generation of talented nurses that we so desperately need.