The pandemic is losing ground and we are emerging from the crisis with new discoveries. Some good, some different, some ominous unless we create opportunities based on what we have learned to change the trajectory of nursing through leadership, innovation, advocacy and rising together!
The nursing pipeline is strong, our nursing programs are still seeing high enrollments and the interest in nursing is positive and profound.
Patients are coming back to receive care in person. The acuity and volumes are overwhelming the systems in many areas throughout Oregon and Washington. The reasons may be a combination of things; patients fearful of seeking medical care during the pandemic are now experiencing acute symptoms of chronic conditions. Virtual visits offered limited understanding of in-the-moment chief complaints; patients with multiple health issues have exacerbated "symptomology".
The nursing workforce is at grave risk. Turnover is high and this is just the beginning. Many of our most experienced nurses are cutting back or planning early retirement. It is estimated that 20% of the nursing workforce will retire in the next 10 years. Our RN preceptors are fatigued and have reached saturation. The great limiter is the ability to onboard graduate RNs while maintaining our experienced workforce to provide a safe, cohesive orientation and achievement of competency.
Is it time that we re-imagine the role of the professional nurse and capture a narrative that shapes and guides the work that nurses do? This will require sharpening the focus and partnerships between academia and organizations that employ nurses. What can we do to incorporate upstream thinking to address health and social determinants of care long before acute care is needed? The past focus on educating and training a BSN workforce to be highly skilled for acute care and hospital settings will need to shift in order to meet the needs of supporting healthy populations today.
Unleashing the professional nurse on the larger public health issues and increasing access to care outside of crisis care will help contribute to how nurses are prepared to deliver care. The professionally trained Nurse should be primed for advocating for regulatory and legal changes to support this shift. Nurse leaders will play an important role in looking forward to innovative solutions and ushering in a strong narrative for nursing.
Professional nurses are thought leaders who lean into challenges as demonstrated by our strength and ingenuity during this past year. This is our catalyst moment!
Kelly Espinoza, PhD, RN
Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
President Northwest Organization of Nurse Leaders