As the head of one of the nation’s leading healthcare staffing and workforce planning firms, I talk with hundreds of nurses each year. While the nursing shortage is always a main topic, we also spend just as much time discussing the growing demand for nurses to take on more comprehensive roles — beyond just having necessary clinical skills — to manage the increasingly complex care delivery dynamic.
In recent years, new laws, healthcare consumerism, emerging technologies and access-to-care issues have created new opportunities and challenges for nurses. 2016 will be no different. What follows are insights shared by nurses and hiring managers on trends that will impact nursing careers in the coming year and beyond.
Preventive Health & Wellness
Nurses always have played a pivotal role in preventive care and wellness, but this job will take on new dimensions in 2016 as healthcare organizations continue to develop and expand programs designed to drive costs out of the delivery system while improving outcomes.
Our clients are telling us they will be turning more and more to nurses to serve as chief health collaborators with a new class of patients who are looking to take a more proactive role in determining the course of their healthcare.
This burst of healthcare consumerism will require nurses to develop new competencies in emerging health and wellness trends – functional medicine, mindful eating, functional fitness, wearable health technology, etc. – and then be able work with patients to develop personalized wellness programs that focuses on improving performance of the whole person, not just managing chronic health conditions and risks.
Nurses also are telling us they are experiencing a stronger push to take their preventive health and wellness work to the community level. This expansion of services is being driven largely by mandates in the Affordable Care Act, which provides $11 billion for the expansion of community health centers and nurse-managed clinics for underserved populations.
This new focus on public health nursing will increase demand for advanced practice nurses who will be required to take strong leadership roles in many of these new or expanded programs. In fact, in this new community health arena, nurses will deliver much more than just preventative health and wellness services. In many cases, they also will lead primary care and serve as the chief administrator.
The rate at which new technology is being developed and deployed in the healthcare space is astounding and it will only increase in 2016. This influx of new gadgets, equipment and apps is changing the way nurses deliver care and is driving the need for professionals who are more digitally ambitious and comfortable incorporating new technology into their nursing practices. Our clients are telling us that it continues to be difficult to find nurses who embrace technology and use it effectively.
From a treatment perspective, the increased use of robotic surgical equipment, genetic and genomic technology, new minimally invasive treatment and diagnostic tools, along with advance prosthetics and implant devices will challenge nurses to develop new competencies in their use as well as the ability to translate and explain the technologies to their patients.
On the delivery front, the expanded use of telemedicine will introduce nurses to an ever-changing suite of video, imaging and interactive technology. This will require them to change how they deliver care and interact with patients, doctors and other clinicians who literally may be on the other side of the world. There is also an increasing demand for nurses who are fluent in mobile app-based, web-based and wearable healthcare technology and can guide patients to the best choices and coach them how to use them.
New Nursing Roles
One of the most exciting new areas of nursing is at the nexus of technology and patient care, known as nursing informatics (NI). Healthcare organizations will be relying on nurses more and more to drive technological innovation through their organizations. This specialty will play a pivotal role in determining how technology will be used to shape care across the organization. From developing telemedicine care protocols to informing the development of electronic medical record systems, informatics nurses will ensure that patient need is at the center of the healthcare technology revolution.
Our hospital clients also say they will be looking at the broader use of attending nurses to coordinate care. More experienced nurses will be needed to identify gaps in treatment and care and develop plans to better utilize and integrate hospital resources to ensure better outcomes for patients. Nurses will need to develop stronger competencies in patient assessment, interdisciplinary collaboration and conflict resolution to better meet the complex care needs of patients.
As the impact of the Affordable Care Act extends deeper into the healthcare system millions of new patients have access to care. Understandably, nurses have told us their workload has increased significantly. But the added challenge has been dealing with an increasingly diverse patient base. Cultural competence will be an increasingly important component of improving access to care, particularly with advance practice nurses who will be charged with leading a growing number of community health initiatives.
Hiring organizations will place a premium on nurses who welcome cultural diversity and can build bridges that bring under-served populations into the systems. In many cases, nurses will serve as protocol officers who will translate the cultural beliefs, needs and preference of the communities they serve and create an environment of care that is responsive to them.
Whether from the bedside, from an iPad or from computerized equipment in an office on the other side of the world, nurses have more opportunities than ever before to make an impact on delivering quality patient care. Nurses who understand and embrace these trends will be the most sought-after and valued clinicians in the rapidly evolving and dynamic healthcare system.
By Janet Elkin, President and CEO
Supplemental Health Care