The healthcare system in the U.S. is changing rapidly, and that includes changes in the delivery of care. Because nurses have the most contact with patients, they have always been crucial, but they are becoming even more so as healthcare delivery continues to change. For nurses to fill their new roles, nursing education must change. Hospital policies and healthcare laws must also change. The online RN to BSN program at Purdue Northwest can give you the knowledge and skills you need to keep up with these changes.
Change Is Not Always a Bad Thing
The shifts in healthcare are broadening the scope of the nursing profession, adding new roles and increasing responsibilities. There has also been an increase in people seeking medical attention. More Americans gained access to healthcare after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time low of 9.1 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the CDC. Because many citizens did not have access to care until recently, they ignored some of their less acute health problems. Unfortunately, many of these less serious health concerns became chronic, which will require ongoing care.
Another factor leading to the increase in Americans seeking care is the growing number of people 65 and older. This segment of the population is at its largest in history and will continue to grow for some time. According to the Population Reference Bureau, “The Number of Americans 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent.” These older patients are also more likely to have chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Often, their conditions are concurrent.
Recommendations to Help Nurses Keep Up With the Changes
As the need for nurses increases, so does the need for those nurses to have advanced skills and leadership capabilities. To address these demands, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report with eight recommendations to improve nursing and the healthcare system at large. (As of 2015, the Institute of Medicine is now the National Academy of Medicine [NAM], though the title of the report has not changed.) Four of these recommendations directly relate to working RNs, particularly those with associate degrees who are considering going back to school to earn a BSN and those already in bachelor’s programs.
IOM Recommendation: “Expand opportunities for nurses to lead and diffuse collaborative improvement efforts.”
The IOM report suggests that nurses should have expanded responsibilities in collaborative efforts with physicians and other healthcare professionals. Nurses should lead research teams and have more input in the design and improvement of clinical environments. They should also have greater opportunities to revamp health systems in general. Policymakers — finance, health system administration, nursing education and nursing associations — need to push for these changes.
Nursing programs prepare nurses to assume these expanded roles. The RN to BSN program at Purdue Northwest offers courses to ensure nurses have the skills to lead their colleagues to improved patient care through teamwork and research. Nursing Research, Nursing Leadership and Management, and Conceptual and Theoretical Thinking in Nursing are just a few examples of classes that support the IOM’s recommendation.
IOM Recommendation: “Increase the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020.”
According to “The Future of Nursing: A Look Back at the Landmark IOM Report” by Harvey Fineberg and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, “Because individual and population health needs are changing, and our health care system is ever-evolving, we need nurses to know more and be better trained to provide care in a transformed system.” These changes â€” an older population, more citizens with access to healthcare, an increased number of chronic conditions and more advanced medical technology, to name a few â€” require nurses who have the advanced skills of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Many people play roles in encouraging nurses to earn a BSN. According to the IOM report, “Academic nurse leaders across all schools of nursing should work together to increase the proportion of nurses from 50 to 80 percent by 2020.” These leaders should take charge, partnering with accrediting bodies, healthcare employers and those with the power to fund educational initiatives. There are many ways to encourage nurses to achieve this level of education. Academic leaders and others can work to find grants and scholarships for nurses who enter RN to BSN programs. Private and public funders will play a large part in this. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities can invest in their workforce by offering tuition reimbursements and other benefits to those who pursue a BSN. Leaders in all of these areas should monitor and support nurses who follow this path.
This recommendation also suggests building a more diverse nursing population to mirror the increasingly diverse patient population.
IOM Recommendation: “Ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning.”
Lifelong learning is important in any field, but it may be even more so in healthcare. Because healthcare changes constantly, even experienced nurses need to keep up by taking continuing education classes, attending lectures and monitoring the latest research. Again, nursing schools, healthcare systems and accrediting bodies play large roles. Accredited nursing schools are an ideal source of continuing education. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities can also help by offering incentives to nurses who take the time to learn more about patient care or any other facet of healthcare. Leaders in health systems and education can help by creating environments that support lifelong learning. Nursing associations can also play a part by offering seminars and distributing informative literature to their members.
IOM Recommendation: “Prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.”
It is up to nursing schools, associations, and private and public policymakers to ensure leadership roles are available to nurses. Because nurses are on the front lines of patient care, they have a unique perspective on how healthcare actually works. Administrators and physicians do not always know what it is like on a minute-to-minute basis with patients. BSN-prepared nurses learn the soft skills and leadership abilities to fill these roles, improving healthcare for patients, healthcare systems and providers.
Nurses in leadership positions can also have a positive effect on the financial side of healthcare because they know where waste occurs. Nurses with great bedside manner raise the satisfaction levels of patients, which is more important than ever because patients have a greater range of providers to choose from. Satisfied patients return to the facilities that provide the best service.
The first step for nurses with associate degrees is to find a quality RN to BSN program. Online programs are perfect for working nurses. The online format allows them to study when and where they want, making it easier to manage a busy schedule, meaning nurses can continue in their present nursing jobs while acquiring the latest knowledge and skills. Nurses who enroll in the online RN to BSN program at Purdue Northwest are well on their way to making the NAM’s recommendations a reality.
Learn about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.