The Nursing Profession’s Future:
Bridging Healthcare Gaps through Professional Development Nursing has long been a profession that travels across a broad continuum of healthcare disciplines and practices. Similar to any other profession, in the field of healthcare or not, nursing has a growing body of knowledge and with it comes the requirement to constantly and formally learn. This was the motivation of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) when they formulated a two-year initiative that includes key messages highlighting the importance of education and formal training in nursing as an expanding profession and providing recommendations on how these messages should apply in the scope of practice. The IOM firmly affirms that to cater to the population’s healthcare needs, barriers including diversity and cultural relevance in the meeting the demands of care, insufficient education and training in adopting roles across changing healthcare settings, restrictions or limitations, even professional tensions, should be addressed. Therefore, leaning towards the observations made by the IOM and the RWJF regarding the people’s healthcare needs and the nursing workforce, the report has concurred four key messages. The first message focuses on the role of complete education and training to strengthen the nursing practice and address its challenges. The IOM report states that there are regulatory barriers across U.S. states when it comes to the degree at which nurses can perform their practice. However, this leads to “fragmentation” in the healthcare system, restricts on the scope of practice, consequently affecting the quality of patient care. The Joint Commission recommends the establishment of “nurse residency programs” for the acquisition of adequate knowledge and skills of nursing.
Graduates before professional practice to meet care standards. In lieu to the first recommendation, the second key message of the IOM report states that for nurses to provide the best patient-centred quality care in the hospital and community settings, an improved education system offering continuing education and training at higher levels must be pursued. The report recommends modifying BSN curricula and learning modalities in response to the demands of an ever-changing healthcare system. On the other hand, the last two of the four key messages dwell on collaboration with other healthcare providers and making effective policies through efficient data gathering and workforce planning. The third key message discusses the importance of having leadership competencies as a nurse to collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals fully. It is essential for nurses to understand their roles as shapers of policies and strategies, not just inpatient care, but also in improving the workplace environment that they are in. The third key message also emphasizes the importance of nursing education to help nurses learn the necessary leadership competencies. Lastly, the fourth key message in the IOM report states the importance of an effective data infrastructure or system to plan for workforce policies. Ample data to gather information regarding the impact and gaps of current practice (e.g. current needs of nurses, education and deployment concerns, and barriers to coordination amongst others) is fundamental to plan for an organized and fluid workforce. In general, the IOM report highlights the importance of nursing education and training not just for professional development but to urge institutions to create a more autonomous environment for nurses and display leadership competencies in the healthcare system. With an ageing population in the United States, it is projected that between the years 2010 to 2030, around 1 million registered nurses or one-third of the current workforce will retire.
A significant number of competent and equipped nurses is expected to decrease over time which will put a strain in the healthcare system. Therefore, the 4th recommendation of the IOM report encourages “increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree from 50% to 80% by the year 2020”. Producing more BSNs allows more autonomy for nurses in terms of responsibility, as well as more leadership opportunities accompanied by higher monetary compensation. Furthermore, the 5th, 6th and 7th recommendations of the IOM report also provided the vitality of treating nursing practice as a lifelong process. Advanced degree programs prepare nursing students to various areas of competencies such as policy-making, leadership and quality improvement. A study by Price and Reichert (2017) affirms that adequate education and training, sufficient time adjusting to new positions, and enough preparation for the real environment, are important for professional development. In the same study, early-career to middle-career nurses also acknowledge the role of education and training at actual settings to meet the needs and changing demands of patients across the lifespan. Quality care is the goal of healthcare. It is always patient-centred, and the society needs well-equipped nurses who can be leaders imbibing several capacities to establish and sustain a formidable healthcare system for everyone.