What’s on the Horizon for Nursing in 2016?
After recently giving a presentation on Florence Nightingale, I mused on the changes nursing has seen through the ages. For example? In 1887, one rule for nurses stated that any nurse who smoked, used liquor in any form, got her hair done at a beauty shop or frequented a dance hall would "give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions, and integrity." I would have been kicked out of nursing based on my hair care alone! While the trends and changes we are seeing for nursing in 2016 have nothing to do with our hair salons, they are still things worthy of notice.
First of all, we are facing an ongoing nursing shortage. In 2012, the RN vacancy rate was at 4.4%; it ticked forward to 4.6% in 2013, and rose again to 5.9% in 2014. Specialty areas are the hardest hit due to high retirement rates and difficulty in recruitment. Those areas include perioperative, critical care, emergency and, in some regions, labor and delivery. These specialized areas take developed skills, making it difficult to take new, inexperienced nurses and plug them in right away. It takes time to fill these roles; meanwhile, the shortage keeps rising. Hospitals are offering signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, and other alluring offers to draw candidates in. However, in some cases, it means nurses are moving from hospital to hospital based on the offered incentives. This isn't solving the problem; it's simply reallocating the current resources.
This shortage isn't a new problem. We may currently be seeing it most in the specialty areas, but be aware that this shortage will trickle down. We need to continue to assure that nurses practice to the full scope of their license and remain hungry for ways to put evidence-based information to practice. This can be done through online courses. Some 40,000 courses are taken by healthcare professionals monthly through Medline University online, for example, which offers free educational opportunities.
We also need to have programs in place to help new nurses who choose specialties to get all the training, experience and exposure they need to become valuable team members.
Another big trend I am excited to see in 2016 is giving nurses a seat at the supply chain table. You may not be invited to have a seat at the table; you may have to make yourself a seat. Nursing needs to be present, because supply chain decision-making can no longer be just about price: It has to be about performance, too. Products need to be intuitive to practice, and clinicians need to have clear understanding of the benefit of using a particular product. Cost for products is not always found just in the number on the invoice. If the product does not integrate well into the nurse's workflow on the floor, they will develop workarounds. There could be waste and lack of efficiency, both of which lead to increased costs, many times lost in the overall expense of delivering care.
The most important thing to understand in getting nurses involved in supply chain decisions is that this isn't about one side winning or losing. Supply chain product decisions affect both patients and nurses, but at the same time, nurses need to understand the supply chain world too. It's about aligning incentives to the performance of the organization. The future of supply chain involves nurses, with a goal of creating one team for true collaboration.
Now It's Your Turn
I am eager to see what the future brings for nursing in 2016 and beyond. While we are facing some challenges, there is so much promise in the growth of the profession, especially in terms of collaboration outside of our normal practice in the units and on the floors.
Each month, we'll tackle a different issue facing the profession and provide unique insight, perspective and tips about how to face it, head-on.
What are some of your predictions for the future of nursing in 2016 and how will you as a nurse leader make it happen? Share your comments below.