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Top 5 Challenges Facing Nursing in 2012

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   November 15, 2011

The holiday decorations are going up in my neighborhood, Thanksgiving is next week, and my mind has already turned to end-of-year activities and planning for what's in store in 2012. With these things on my mind, I thought I'd turn in the annual retrospective/prediction column a little early this year.

2010 may have been the year when enormous healthcare changes began, but 2011 was the year these changes hit nursing. In addition, the Institute of Medicine's landmark Future of Nursing report was released at the end of 2010 and much of this year has been spent digesting its recommendations and searching for ways to put them into practice.

At last month's Nursing Management Congress I realized that the full ramifications of value-based purchasing have hit home in nursing and have trickled down to the unit level. It's no longer something that is only happening at the administration level and that only concerns nurse executives. Now every nurse leader and manager is actively planning for its impact.

Here's a quick rundown of the most pressing issues right now and into 2012:

1.Advanced degrees are no longer optional

I have been cheered that discussion of the IOM's recommendation for 80% of all RNs to have a baccalaureate degree by 2020 has not veered too intensely into the old ADN vs. BSN quagmire. Instead, the profession is focusing on ways to engage nurses in lifelong learning so that associate degree nurses can find realistic ways to obtain BSN degrees.

In addition, BSN nurses are encouraged to be leaders in evidence-based practice and research and it's becoming more common—and crucially, more expected—for nurses to pursue master's degrees. And the creation of the doctor of nursing practice degree has taken off better than anyone could have expected.

In the last six months, any time I'm in a group of nurse executives, the conversation always turns to who has already entered a program and how long it's going to take the rest of the group to do so.


2.Patient engagement gets real

If you haven't found a way to drive home the importance of patient experience to direct-care nurses, find it now. You know how much reimbursement is at stake, but the rank and file caregivers still don't get it. I've written before that the term "patient experience" has a way of annoying bedside caregivers. '"We're not Disneyworld," is a common refrain; people don't want to be in the hospital. "I'm here to save patients' lives, not entertain them," is another common complaint.  

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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