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Live From AONL 2024: Virtual Nursing is Unsurprisingly Top of Mind

Analysis  |  By G Hatfield  
   April 10, 2024

As AONL 2024 continues, nurse leaders are brainstorming how to integrate technology into their workflows.

After day one at AONL 2024, it's clear that nurse leaders and executives have a few common goals in mind to tackle workforce concerns.

Virtual nursing

It's no secret that the largest issue facing nursing today is staffing. CNOs are working hard to lower turnover rates by improving recruitment and retention efforts, and many of them are incorporating virtual nursing as a way to do that.

At AONL 2024, Linda Alderson, chief nurse executive at Tacoma General and Allenmore Hospitals, and Jennifer Graham, chief nurse executive at MultiCare Health System, spoke about how they are incorporating virtual nursing and robotics into their care models. Alderson and Graham estimated that once fully integrated, the new care model, which involves a bedside RN, a LPN, a CNA, a virtual nurse, and a robot, with save the health system $2.2 million per unit per year.

Leadership development

Another way nurse leaders are confronting the staffing shortage and other workforce issues is through leadership development. As more nurses retire from the industry, CNOs need to create mentorship programs for newer graduate nurses so that they can become acclimatized to the workforce and also so they can become the next generation of leaders.

At Norton Children's, Erin Kirk, director of patient care services, spoke at AONL 2024 about the health system's implementation of a mentorship program that empowers nurses through adult learning. The opt-in program is set up as a hybrid mentorship program that uses an external technology platform and in-person sessions to educate nurses who are nominated to participate, as either mentors or mentees.

So far, the program has seen great successes, according to Kirk, in encouraging nurses to continue with their career and leadership development, with 59% of participants having expanded their roles or involvement with the health system since engaging with the program.

More workforce trends

Many leaders were also focused on shared governance, workplace violence prevention, social determinants of health, and the public perception of nursing. There is also growing concern about the number of graduating nurses who are entering the workforce, which ties into the staffing shortage as well.

However, there is hope.

Nurse and healthcare economist Dr. Peter Buerhaus spoke about the latest research on the staffing shortage, which predicts that the nursing industry will grow by 1.2 million RNs through 2035 if entry into the workforce continues at recent levels.

CNOs everywhere will have to wait and see if that happens, in spite of the many challenges that will appear along the way. In the meantime, AONL 2024 continues, so stay tuned for more coverage.

G Hatfield is the nursing editor for HealthLeaders.


Virtual nursing and technology integration are front and center for nurse leaders across the country.

Nurse leaders say that leadership development is critical for building and maintaining the nursing workforce.

The staffing shortage looks grim, but some projections say the nursing workforce will grow exponentially in the next ten years.

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