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Examining the Impact of Covid-19 on Nurses

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted every industry, and nursing is no exception. With patient numbers increasing and hospitals strained, many nurses are now stepping directly onto the frontlines or shifting to fill other voids the pandemic has created, often working longer and unpredictable hours.

In some cases, nurses have crossed state lines to provide care, while older nurses have been forced out of retirement to combat the ongoing shortage.

According to The Guardian, roughly 40,000 retired healthcare workers came out of retirement during the pandemic and acted as a surge health force.

In addition to placing unparalleled demands on modern healthcare systems, the pandemic provided a glimpse into the future of the nursing industry.

By catching sight of potential industry changes, nursing leaders can develop better strategies to address changes and eliminate potential mistakes before they occur.

The pandemic highlighted the ongoing nursing shortage

Even before the pandemic, nurse staffing shortages existed due to increased healthcare demand, retiring nurses, and economic downturns.

However, this shortage was highlighted during the pandemic as nurses faced longer hours, constant staffing issues, and risks to their health and safety. According to the US Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card, the country will have an RN shortage of more than 500,000 by 2030.

Making the situation worse is the fact that roughly one million nurses will reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. Nursing staffing shortages have concerning implications for patient safety.

Therefore, healthcare providers must prioritize increasing nurse staffing levels to deliver positive patient outcomes. With the crisis likely far from over, healthcare providers must continue to rise to meet the challenges brought by the pandemic and the economic fallout of its spread.

An excellent place to start is adopting flexible scheduling to fill shifts with qualified nursing staff and provide a positive work-life balance. Unfortunately, this balance often goes out the window with the increased physical and emotional stress nurses sometimes experience.

According to a study published in Science Direct, roughly 56.55% of nurses reported a work-life imbalance. A separate survey found that nearly 60% of nurses want to leave their jobs in pursuit of a better work-life balance.

Flexible scheduling enables nurses to change their working hours quickly to suit their lives and needs better. Nurses have more control over their time by choosing shifts according to their lifestyles and preferences.

This also makes it easier for them to decompress between stressful and emotionally demanding shifts and live a balanced life that allows them to become more effective at their jobs.

Although drastic policy changes and developments are needed on a large scale to deal with the ongoing nursing shortage, healthcare institutions can start adopting innovative approaches to scheduling to find workable solutions to this issue. However, it is worth noting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach since every nursing professional is unique, and each nursing unit has unique needs.

Nevertheless, healthcare leaders must be open to new and non-traditional ideas to meet the requirements of the changing workforce by collaborating with multi-disciplinary partners to develop flexible options that align with the needs of the designated care areas.

In addition, healthcare providers can use a better onboarding program to make new nurses feel welcome. With an interactive onboarding program, providers can ease new nurses into the job so they feel less overwhelmed in their first few weeks at work.

This reduces employee burnout, turnover, and absenteeism. Nurses who are not overwhelmed or distracted are more likely to turn up for the shifts they have committed to and ensure positive patient outcomes.

Nurses need upskilling

In addition to the shortage of nurses, the pandemic has also emphasized the need for nursing professionals to upskill and take advanced classes at leading academic institutions such as Spring Arbor University to learn innovative health concepts such as psychopathology, patient-centered care, and personalized healthcare.

While the pandemic may have increased nursing demand due to a crisis-level workforce shortage, it also underscored a skills gap wherein there is a disparity between what organizations need from their nurses and what their nursing workforce can deliver.

Patient outcomes can suffer significantly as a result of skills gaps. Nurses who lack adequate skills to transcribe medical records may struggle to provide the best care and even commit mistakes that compromise safety and lower patient satisfaction. Moreover, the skills gap burdens healthcare systems, resulting in overwhelmed teams, higher expenses, and inefficiencies.

When nurses do not have the right skills and knowledge, they can feel incompetent, frustrated, and stressed in their work, resulting in lower job satisfaction, burnout, and a decline in the quality of care they provide.

One way for nurses to meet this growing industry demand is by undergoing additional training to deliver the highest quality of care. This helps nurses to master new skills, techniques, and technologies to enhance patient care, centralize processes, and reduce errors.

As a result, nurses will be better prepared to provide specialized care, diversify their expertise, and assist in multiple healthcare areas. Nurses who provide specialized care can coordinate patient care, treat rare conditions, and achieve better healthcare outcomes.

Nurses must also follow a study strategy that aligns with their learning style and schedule when working toward a degree. If you are a nurse trying to advance your career, there is a good chance you are also working long and demanding shifts. Online courses with flexible hours enable nurses to fit their studies around their job and personal responsibilities.

It is worth noting that enrolling in a healthcare education program is not the only way to take action against the nurse skills gap. Nurses can upskill by networking with colleagues to stay updated on the latest in the health industry or joining a professional organization to practice more effectively. These nursing organizations can help RNs maintain proficiency, update their professional knowledge, and provide a safe space to share information and advocate for their patients.

Evidence-based practice is another way for nurses to improve the care they provide. This involves making decisions based on scientific evidence. As the nursing profession evolves, nurses need constant upskilling and training to meet the needs of aging patients with chronic conditions. This allows them to provide patients with effective care coordination, symptom management, and education.

A lack of policies that increase job uptake

The nursing shortage is expected to increase through 2030. Although this situation can be attributed to several factors, one of the most significant reasons it is becoming more challenging to attract and retain nurses is a shortage of policies that increase job uptake.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, hospitals could do more to provide nurses with safe work environments and adequate pay and benefits.

Therefore, healthcare institutions must establish policies and strategies to increase job uptake and fill staffing needs. There are several ways to address this issue, but attracting and retaining top nurses begins with developing the right company culture. Healthy company culture is an incubator for inspired teamwork and other components that lead to satisfied nurses and successful patient outcomes.

One way to establish the right company culture is by exploring ways organizations can show nurses they care about their work and appreciate their daily efforts. Implementing a rewards and recognition program that acknowledges hard work and accomplishment regularly is an excellent start. The reality is that culture is shaped powerfully by incentives. The primary determinant of what people will do is what they are incentivized to do.

It is not unusual for nurses to occasionally feel downbeat or unmotivated, especially if they do not get the recognition they deserve. Even if they do not actively complain about this, it could be a significant reason morale is down and healthcare outcomes are below average. By rewarding nurses for their work and actions that align with organizational values, healthcare leaders can create a culture that values employees and sees them as vital to organizational success.

In addition to a recognition program, healthcare institutions can increase recruitment and retention by supporting mental health for nurses. Nurses are subject to several stressors regularly, including lengthy shifts and difficult patient care situations. All of this can adversely impact their mental health and contribute to poor patient outcomes, increased turnover, and low employee morale.

Therefore, healthcare institutions must create a mental health plan that prioritizes wellness for nurses. This means offering programs and workshops so nurses can learn more about mental health and resilience and foster a sense of community with each other using approaches such as online message boards and social events.

By developing programs and policies that support employee mental health, healthcare institutions can eliminate staffing issues and signify to future applicants that the organization cares about more than simply reaching a specific financial objective.

Training nurses to become more effective in the face of increasing demand

The pandemic has transformed nursing in more ways than one. As technology and circumstances continue to change the industry, healthcare institutions must equip their nurses with the skills, tools, and knowledge needed to effectively deliver high-quality patient outcomes.

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