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Top 5 Challenges Facing Nursing in 2012

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, November 15, 2011

Experience isn't about mollycoddling patients, however, or how flashy the in-room entertainment system is and that's what you need to help nurses understand. In fact, the nurse-patient relationship has always been about patient experience.

Your best nurses instinctively know this. They already create a good patient experience. They help patients understand their care, involve families in decision-making, coordinate multidisciplinary care, sit with patients to explain complex diagnoses, and even, occasionally, have time to offer a quick hug or hand to hold. These are the nurses who get letters from patients and families after discharge and these letters are all about the patient experience.

This is how you need to phrase patient experience with nursing staff so they understand it's not just a program, but a way of life. At the same time, nursing needs to own the cause. They may not be responsible for it in isolation, but they are literally at the center of this issue. They should take the lead and drive the agenda.

In this column from September, I outlined 10 ways to help nurses improve patient satisfaction.

3.Patient safety

Just as nurses should own patient experience, they need to feel ownership for patient safety as well. I wrote last month that "quality improvement becomes one more meaningless directive from 'above' unless nurses feel engaged in the process, involved in the plans, and accountable for the results."

Preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAI) is no longer simply the right thing to do, it's become the only financially viable option. Unless nurses are educated and empowered, real progress cannot be made.

4.Cost cutting

Nursing knows that hiring freezes and layoffs are a constant threat and healthcare organizations are forced to put cost cutting at the top of the agenda in 2012. As the largest budget in the organization, nursing is an easy target.

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6 comments on "Top 5 Challenges Facing Nursing in 2012"


Dawn (6/7/2012 at 2:53 PM)
While the topics covered in this article may be hard to accept...accept them we must. This is the future of nursing. It is up to the bedside nurse to decide how to influence the mandates that are being encountered now and in the future. A recent article revealed that nursing is under represented in the health care reform process. That means business leaders, physicians, and politicians are deciding our practice. Unfortunately, we are letting them instead of letting them hear the voice of the 2.9 million nurses there are in the United States.

Ali RN (1/11/2012 at 9:14 PM)
This article was immensely offensive to bedside nursing. I am a BScN RN, and I think that if associate degree/diploma nurses want to get their full BSN, then great. If not, that's okay too. Experience is more valuable any day. All nurses are taught from day 1 about the patient experience. We all know that the patient's perception of health care can have a huge impact on the healing process. To imply that nurses do not understand this is insulting. To call us "rank and file" care givers is degrading. Nurses understand that the patient experience has nothing to do with "molly coddling" as you put it. If you want nurses to be involved in patient safety and held accountable, you need to start listening to us. We don't need to feel involved, we need to BE involved. We all understand about cost cutting, and that nurses are largest part of the budget. However, nurses also make up the largest population of health care workers are any given hospital. Agile staffing sounds to me like hiring more casuals, which means less experience on the ward when I need it. Although you might not have meant it, this article is very offensive to nurses.

SparrowRN (12/30/2011 at 6:48 PM)
Demand that nurses have at least a BSN if not an MSN and then preach to them about making patients happy and safe. Nurses cannot be told how to speak with scripting and to round every hour taking care of pain, position, and potty (be sure to use baby words with the BSN/MSN RNs) and then be expected to think critically. Either there is trust in RN judgement and ability or there isn't. If you want a responsible, critically thinking, compassionate nursing staff treat them as responsible, smart, caring people. Stop micro-managing. Share information, encourage nursing input, actually listen to them, and act upon nursing ideas. Stop soliciting RN input so the hospital can get Magnet status when in fact that input is routinely ignored. Finally stop preaching at all of us and fire the bad apples, including the bad apples in management. It is going to take a long time for health care management to remake their image and be the leaders they claim to be.