The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruption to the economy and the labor market that has yet to subside. He also highlighted in particular the plight of workers in one of the most common occupations in the countryside – nurses.
Over the past year, people on the front lines have reported increased rates of burnout, decreased mental health, and mistrust and disengagement of the organizations that employ them. Some are are considering leaving their roles for jobs unrelated to direct patient care or retirement.
But the demand for nurses will only increase, as well as the demands of the job, depending on at a report published Tuesday of National Academy of Medicine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They face an aging population that is experiencing an increase in behavioral and mental health issues, and in the workplace, this will likely help tackle health policy and equity issues.
For the profession to meet the needs of the population over the next decade, a substantial increase in the number, type and distribution of nurses across geographic regions, specialties and care settings is needed, according to the authors of the report.
To ensure an adequate nursing workforce, here are the main initiatives recommended for nursing schools, employers and policy makers:
Continuously expand the scope of practice
The pandemic has prompted a number of states to temporarily roll back restrictions on nurse practitioners – who typically work in primary care settings – allowing them to prescribe medication, diagnose patients and provide treatment without the presence of a physician.
Permanently granting full practice authority to nurse practitioners across the United States, the report said, would remove a major barrier affecting the capacity of the workforce.
Full practice authority is already permitted in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Eight states rolled back their restrictions during the pandemic and some are in the process of making the changes permanent.
The report committee recommended that all changes to institutional policies and state and federal laws enacted in response to the pandemic to expand the scope of practice, telehealth eligibility, insurance coverage and gender parity. payment be made permanent by 2022.
“Until all nurses are allowed to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training, we will continue to see significant and preventable gaps in access to care, “said Regina Cunningham, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania hospital, during a webinar on the report.
“Since government leaders have concluded that removing these restrictions is beneficial in expanding public access to care during the pandemic, it seems counterproductive to reimpose these barriers,” Cunningham said.
Strengthen education and equity
Nurses with bachelor’s and doctoral degrees have a special need, as well as those in certain specialties that suffer from existing shortages, such as primary care, long-term care, behavioral health, and public and community health. , according to the report.
This is in part because nursing education programs have traditionally emphasized training for care in hospitals rather than other settings. These programs are expected to increase their coursework and practical experience for students in community settings, primary care facilities, rural health clinics and other similar and smaller points of care.
Nursing programs should also familiarize students with the technology that will likely be incorporated into their practice over the next decade through training in new tools, including telehealth and AI.
It is also essential to effectively prepare students for the challenges they will face with regards to health equity, racial disparities and the social determinants of health, as is the creation of a diverse nursing workforce. .
Nursing roles are mostly owned by womenand teachers in nursing programs are predominantly white and female. The workforce needs to better reflect the populations it serves and still has a long way to go. Leadership can play an important role in recognizing the history of discrimination and implicit prejudice in health care, and its crucial roles are increasingly occupied by nurses from diverse backgrounds, the report’s authors noted. .
Promote, monitor and manage mental health and well-being
Numerous reports have shown an increase in burnout and mental health issues among nurses throughout the pandemic. In the future, they are expected to face more health and social justice issues in the workplace, which will make their jobs even more emotionally taxing, according to the report.
Nurses from under-represented groups have also said they face a “diversity tax” – characterized as being called upon to serve on diversity committees and other activities that are often unpaid and unrewarded. These demands can worsen burnout, and equity initiatives should not be seen as separate from day-to-day work activities and responsibilities, the report says.
In order to support their current and future workforce, employers need to provide adequate space and support – something they have not been good at.
In an April poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, 60% of frontline healthcare workers surveyed said the pandemic had had a negative impact on their mental health. About 18% said they needed mental health services or medication but did not get them. Many have cited being also busy or unable to take time off work, be afraid or embarrassed or not able to afford it.
“Policy makers, employers of nurses, nursing schools, nurse leaders and nursing associations all have a role to play in this end,” the report said.