Guide to Professional Health in an Otherwise Unhealthy Environment
Colleen Claffey RN-BC,MSN,CEN,CPEN, is nurse educator in the emergency department/critical care at Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach, FL.
Never had I imagined that hospital workers, including nurses, would be mandated to take leave without pay in an attempt to save dollars. Furlough days have invaded healthcare, and nurses who deliver much needed patient care in an already taxed and prohibitive healthcare environment are left with feelings of professional abandonment. Guided by national reform, a sluggish economy and corporate mishandlings, these situations are not unique. How does a nurse re-group and persevere?
The 2010 Affordable Care Act represents a significant healthcare overhaul. Transforming the healthcare system to provide safe, quality, patient-centered, accessible and affordable care will require a comprehensive rethinking of the roles of many healthcare professionals. The steep state cuts of Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement is being felt, and organizations are strategically working to shrink workforce in an effort to make systems more efficient. Notably, through the dismal economic environment, the healthcare sector has consistently added jobs. However, these trends are changing given the sharp economic climate.
The American Medical Association reports that in 1990, there were 2,446 hospitals with emergency departments in non-rural areas. That number dropped to 1,779 in 2009, even as the total number of emergency room visits nationwide increased by roughly 35 percent. A survey by the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care shows the recent Medicare reimbursement reduction will result in at least 20,000 potential job layoffs and prevent the creation of another 20,000 new jobs in skilled care nursing facilities nationwide. Even abroad in the UK, almost 75,000 nurses expect to lose their jobs, have their hours cut or see their roles downgraded in the next year due to the industries financial squeeze. Projections believe our misguided proposed national health plan jeopardizes access to hospital care and will mean fewer nurses and longer waits for emergency care.
Nurses can stay economically and professionally sound by diversifying roles. Aligning with organizational agendas may best be defined by flexibility. Working within various job titles can serve to strengthen your marketability. As an example, working as a clinical provider today and in a leadership position the next can forge strong collegial relationships. Even functioning within multiple departments or between sister facilities can be a strategy for professional sustainability.
Regardless, seeking to further your education and training can be monumental in ensuring employment in these lackluster times. Nurses should seek to leverage the healthcare reform bill, which invests heavily in nursing education and retention geared toward building and maintaining the nursing workforce of the future. These initiatives include various federal grants specifically targeted at associate, baccalaureate and advanced education nursing, workforce diversity and the National Nurse Service Corps, which repays 60 percent of nursing student loans in exchange for at least 2 years of practice at a facility that has a critical shortage of nurses. Harness internal and external resources and utilize reimbursement programs to grow your own career goals.
Nurses make up 54 percent of the healthcare workforce and are at the core of patient care and the foundation of healthcare institutions. The existence of a robust nursing presence is rudimentary. Where we must morph is in our design. The trend seems to be expanded scopes and spans of practice. The notion of one job classification is transforming into a culmination of dynamic functions. To remain vital is to work in multiple capacities either within your existing organization or others. As nurses we should view healthcare reform as an opportunity to manage and develop our professional selves.
1. The New York Times. Cuts in health care may undermine role in labor market. (Aug. 17, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 2, 2012 on the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/business/cuts-in-health-care-may-undermine-role-in-labor-market.html?pagewanted=all
2. American Hospital Association. Statement on House Republican Plan. (Dec. 9, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 26, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.aha.org/presscenter/pressrel/2011/111209-pr-plan.pdf
3. The Guardian. NHS nurses in England 'fear job losses or downgrades as cuts bite', poll finds. (Oct. 2, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 5, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/oct/03/nhs-nurses-england-job-fears
4. The New York Times. Fewer emergency rooms available as need rises. (May 17, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 2, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/18/health/18hospital.html
5. Institute of Medicine. The future of nursing: Focus on education. (Jan. 26, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 2, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/The-Future-of-Nursing-Leading-Change-Advancing-Health/Report-Brief-Education.aspx
6. BizTimes.com. Tipping point: Nursing home industry faces financial crisis. (Dec. 16, 2011). Retrieved Jan. 2, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.biztimes.com/news/2011/12/16/tipping-point-nursing-home-industry-faces-financial-crisis