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Nurses Positioned to be the Drivers of the Healthcare Industry's Evolution

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   September 02, 2021

Specialization, new staffing models, and more are creating care teams that look different than ever before.

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion report sponsored by Wolters Kluwer. The full report, The Driving Force of Healthcare Starts at the Bedside, is available as a free download.

Nurses make up the largest segment of the healthcare workforce and, therefore, have the potential to drive the healthcare industry’s evolution.

Specializing, for example, is on the rise in nursing, in terms of both specialties offered and the number of nurses specializing.

"I believe in specialties [in] nursing practice, and I know that the outcomes do improve with specialty nursing ser­vices, but this pandemic showed us that we could be flexible in that nurses can learn new competen­cies and they will always step up in emergencies. That’s why we’re the most trusted profession in the world," says Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Stanford Children's Health in Stanford, California.

"But I believe it’s still a very important point that we continue to assess and promote specialty practice because we always see improved outcomes with specialty nursing practice," Cepero says.

But flexibility is also key, says Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, chief nurse of Health Learning, Research & Practice at Wolters Kluwer.

"For us to have an agile, flexible workforce, we need to have more nurses who are cross-trained and are multispecialty across the adjacent specialties," she says. "So while I absolutely agree specialties are important, we need to be really careful here and recognize that what really worked is multispecialty nurses who could go between adjacent areas, and that's where hospitals need to focus."

Staffing will continue to challenge nurse leaders as nurses leave because of a stressful work environment, inadequate staffing, and nurse burnout.

"We have to be honest with ourselves, pick up a mirror, and figure out what our part has been as nurse leaders for all these years where we have not been able to fix what we needed to fix, and what part our organizations have had," says Kathleen Sanford, DBA, RN, chief nursing officer for CommonSpirit Health.

"We are going to have to involve people at the very front line—staff nurses, wherever they are—to tell us what it will take, to tell us what they need, to tell us why they're frustrated. Then we must act on this input," she says.

Technology may also hold the key, says Cynthia Lockyear, MSN, RN, CENP, chief nursing officer of TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

"There's a place here for looking at technology and how it can help remove workload both from our nurses at the bedside taking care of our patients and our nurse leaders. There's a lot of data science going on behind what nursing is inputting, what the system is inputting from tests and results, what physicians are inputting, and making a lot of analysis and feeding that information," she says.

"So where we're busier than we've ever been, with sicker and higher-acute patients than we've ever had," Lockyear says, "being able to automate many of the things that we've had to do manually are the things that will help alleviate that burnout and create better environments."

View the complete HealthLeaders Roundtable report: The Driving Force of Healthcare Starts at the Bedside

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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