The care that nursing leaders provide is invaluable and can change the lives of millions of Americans. While it can be a deeply rewarding career, however, nursing isn’t without issues and obstacles, requiring nurse leaders to evolve to meet the latest trends in technology and challenges for both providers and patients.
Today’s nurses must adapt to meet a multitude of health care issues and challenges, including the need to provide increased and affordable care, respond to variants of the coronavirus and address the health and longevity of health care professionals themselves. The challenges facing health care organizations today can be far-reaching and require experienced nurses equipped with various strategies and solutions.
As the nursing landscape continues to change to include technological advancements and a shifting approach to the traditional model of health care, the need for nursing leaders who can innovate to take on new challenges grows. Building experience and earning a higher education degree such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can help nurses gain the knowledge and skills required to handle more complex roles, adding responsibility and autonomy and increasing their potential to reach their professional goals.
Current Health Care Issues
There are a variety of challenges that nursing leaders and health care organizations must address to provide quality care to patients across the country. The following are some of the current health care issues facing nursing leaders:
1. Nursing Shortages
Nurses have ranked highest for 20 years straight in Gallup’s poll of the ethics and honesty of various professions. However, despite nurses’ positive image, the U.S. has a critical nursing shortage, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting an average of over 276,000 openings for registered nurses each year between 2020 and 2030.
Among factors including workplace burnout and increased stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, inadequate pay and the retirement of many aging health care professionals, the nursing shortage is one of the most critical challenges facing health care organizations today.
In response, many experts are advocating for the DNP to become standard among nurses, providing them with advanced knowledge and skills and equipping them to take on additional responsibilities and control of patient care. In many states, nurse practitioners (who have either a Master of Science in Nursing [MSN] or a DNP) can provide higher levels of care without the supervision of a physician, streamlining aspects such as diagnoses, the prescription of medication and care planning.
With many nurses growing frustrated with pay and the inefficiencies of organizations that rely on the supervision of doctors for basic procedures, earning a DNP has the potential to improve both nurse salaries and workplace satisfaction. Allowing nurses to take on more job autonomy and coveted senior or supervisory roles, earning a DNP can be the key to reaching their professional goals, and in turn allowing senior nurses to have a deciding role in the future of their profession.
2. Nurse Burnout
At the heart of many health care issues is the growing challenge of nurse burnout, which has a ripple effect that touches all areas of nursing. Burnout can be the deciding factor for many nurses choosing to leave bedside practice or the nursing practice altogether, adding to the nursing shortage. For some, it can lead to long-term negative health effects for nurses themselves, negatively affecting both nurses and the patients they care for. The following are some of the common risks of nurse burnout:
- Compassion fatigue or detachment. Nurses who are overwhelmed may struggle with the emotional capacity to provide compassion care and empathy to their patients. This can include feeling unmotivated, indifferent or lacking energy in the workplace.
- Errors in care due to fatigue. Lack of sleep or overwork can increase the risk of mistakes while providing care, leading to increased medical complications and negative care outcomes.
For many health care organizations, providing nursing leaders with the tools they need to combat nurse burnout can have a positive domino effect. By creating a working atmosphere that values self-care and strives to eliminate the stigma of seeking mental and physical help, health care organizations can lower the rate of nurse burnout, improving the morale among nurses and increasing nurse retention.
Solutions to Burnout
Nurse burnout is one of the most crucial challenges facing health care organizations today. At the heart of many organizations, providing care and resources to combat nurse burnout can make all the difference in the long-term health and success of staff, patients and the organization itself. Some of those solutions follow.
- Self-Care. For nurses to provide care and compassion to patients, they must first be able to provide care and compassion to themselves. Whether that comes in the form of seeking counseling from qualified professionals or simply making the time for their favorite hobbies and the relationships in their own lives, nurses who make their own happiness a priority are better equipped to care for their patients.
- Sleep. One of the most prevalent challenges to nurse burnout is a lack of sleep, a health care issue that can cause poor judgment, difficulty in decision-making and emotional instability. By making sure that nurses have adequate time off and time to sleep, organizations can curb errors in patient care and nurse burnout.
- Work-Life Balance. Nursing leaders have the opportunity to set an example for their colleagues and establish programs that prioritize a healthy work-life balance. By ensuring that nurses take time for themselves, nursing leaders can cultivate a more positive workplace atmosphere, improve patient care and increase employee retention.
3. Evolving Technology and Cybersecurity
The field of health care is always changing. For future nursing leaders, one of these issues is adequate education and knowledge of nursing technology. Embracing the integration and evolution of technology into health care is instrumental. From the basic implementation of electronic records to the transition to new and innovative equipment, strong nursing leadership is at the forefront of medical technology.
Meeting the evolution of technology involves more than simply streamlining processes or patient care; it also involves securing privacy and safety for both nurses and patients. As new programs, strategies and technology are integrated into medicine, the need for cybersecurity programs and nursing leaders capable of educating their peers on how to use the latest technology grows with it.
Medical innovation is constant, but while this continual evolution has the potential to streamline and improve patient care, it can only be done with proper education. Without providing programs and strategies to teach current professionals how to use new technology, those systems are all but useless. Nursing leaders who choose to pursue an advanced degree such as a DNP have the opportunity to both educate themselves on these systems and establish strategies to educate their peers.
Cybersecurity has recently become an ever-present and growing issue for health care organizations. Aside from the fact that health care is a multitrillion-dollar industry in the U.S. alone, the information that health care organizations protect is invaluable. Optimal cybersecurity is vital to protect the personal, medical and financial records of both patients and employees.
4. In-Home and Community Care
Nursing leaders and their organizations work tirelessly to meet their patients’ wants and needs. 60% of patients reported that they’d prefer to transition from hospital care to at-home or community care, according to a 2021 survey from Boston Consulting Group. This means there will likely be a need for nursing leaders who are able to provide local care and resources to their communities.
Community Nursing Resources
From remote patient monitoring to at-home care, nursing leaders have the opportunity to greatly improve the standards of patient care and decrease the stress and discomfort associated with hospital visits. Advanced degrees and certifications, including the DNP, can provide nurses with increased job autonomy in many states, including the right to make diagnoses and prescribe medication to their patients.
With these added rights, nurses are able to open many doors in reaching their personal and professional goals.
5. Adapting to Digital Engagement
The growing use of technology affects nearly every aspect of daily life, and the lives of nursing leaders are no exception. Adapting to the saturation of technology and digital engagement in health care can be incredibly advantageous, but it also presents its own sets of challenges.
Telehealth and Online Care Providers
The availability and affordability of medical care have been a long-standing health care issue for many communities. The growth and increased demand for telehealth and online care providers have the potential to alleviate some of the gaps in care for lower-income, at-risk and rural communities, but it requires additional training and technology.
Nursing leaders with advanced education can provide much-needed care to underserved communities through telehealth resources and online care. By decreasing the barriers to care for those who may not be physically or financially able to visit a traditional medical organization, online providers can bridge the gap, fighting inequality and disparity in our medical system.
Additionally, with the opportunity to take control of their schedule, the transition to online care can provide freedom and work-life balance that hasn’t often been available to full-time nurses.
Access to online nursing programs has never been easier, and the quality of education that online programs provide has never been better. For nurse practitioners looking to take the next step in their education, the opportunity to study online provides flexibility, allowing them to continue working and increasing their hands-on experience while cutting out costly expenses, such as moving or commuting to school.
With the ability to study while remaining in their communities, nursing leaders are able to provide localized solutions to the challenges facing their health care organization, learning the latest strategies and adapting them to fit the needs and goals of their patients.
6. Promoting Equity
One of the greatest and most pervasive problems in health care involves disparities in care and resources between communities. With fewer resources and care providers available to low-income and underserved communities, increased rates of health complications and negative long-term repercussions can cause a ripple effect across generations. This disparity causes disheartening statistics, including the following:
- Black, American Indian and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. are at a higher risk of chronic disease, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, heart disease or premature death than their white counterparts.
- Racial and ethnic minorities have a lower average life expectancy than white Americans.
- Disparities due to race or lower income contribute to a lack of social and economic necessities and benefits, including housing, education, wealth, employment and long-term health.
Nursing leaders have the opportunity to begin shifting perspectives within the medical community. Efforts to increase the number of racial or ethnic minorities within medical professions, as well as programs that focus on equal distribution of resources to all communities, can have a dramatic effect on the future, encouraging the equitable treatment of all patients and providing an opportunity to begin building generational wealth within lower-income communities.
7. Misinformation and Barriers to Care
Accuracy is essential to the proper and safe delivery of medical care. Increasingly, the dissemination of medical misinformation has brought on additional problems in health care. From growing distrust of the medical community to the prevalence of inaccurate or misleading information found on the internet, many people are unwilling to trust health care organizations.
This distrust can lead to negative consequences, such as the exacerbation of untreated illness or side effects from the improper use of drugs and medications, posing additional challenges to medical professionals.
Social Media Challenges
While it can be an excellent tool for providing positive health care and wellness tips, social media is equally capable of spreading disinformation and harmful medical advice. This poses a difficult challenge for health care organizations today, as many social media platforms aren’t equipped to provide accurate medical information.
In some cases, however, nursing leaders can use social media platforms to reach a wider audience and have the opportunity to build trust among the public by providing information supported by medical research. By breaking down the barriers to communication between the general public and medical professionals, nursing leaders can remove some of the stigma from common medical questions, promoting a healthy relationship between patients and their providers.
Many of today’s health care issues begin with a lack of health education. Poverty, geography and socioeconomic status can play a large part in the amount or quality of health care education provided to different communities, with many low-income communities or those of racial and ethnic minorities facing additional barriers to care. Without fundamental education on subjects such as a healthy diet or lifestyle, many communities can find themselves at higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity or hypertension.
With advanced education, nursing leaders are able to build the knowledge and communication skills required to pass on invaluable health education to their communities through programs such as the following:
- Weekend or after-school programs that promote a healthy lifestyle
- Sexual wellness and education
- Access to basic wellness checks
- Affordable physical and mental health resources
Providing basic health care education and resources can allow nursing leaders to remove some of the stigma from seeking health advice or care, teaching patients how to lead a healthier lifestyle and improving the overall wellness of a community for the future.
Address Health Care Challenges with a DNP
The demands and challenges facing nursing leaders and health care organizations today are many and complex. While it may seem daunting, finding solutions to those challenges can make a life-changing positive impact on millions of patients. Through their tireless dedication and commitment to their craft, nurses play an invaluable role in the health and success of our society.
Pursuing an advanced degree, such as the online DNP from Walsh University, can provide registered nurses with the kickstart they need to take on senior roles and reach their professional goals. With its fully online program, streamlined clinical placement process and one-on-one support from experienced faculty, the DNP program at Walsh University is designed to provide you with the practical skills required to meet today’s challenges with confidence. Discover how you can manage health care challenges with an advanced degree in nursing.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice: Is a DNP the Right Degree for You?
- The Importance of Leadership in Nursing
- MSN to DNP: 5 Benefits of Advancing Your Nursing Career
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
- American Nurses Association, Nurses in the Workforce
- Boston Consulting Group, “Health Care’s New Reality Is Dynamic, Digital — and Here to Stay”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Racism and Health
- Exela Technologies, “5 Challenges Facing Healthcare in 2022”
- Fierce Healthcare, “Third of Nurses Plan To Leave Their Jobs in 2022, Survey Finds”
- Gallup, “Military Brass, Judges Among Professions at New Image Lows”
- Healthline, “Understanding the American Nursing Shortage”
- Indeed, 8 Challenges as a Nurse and Tips for Overcoming Them
- Journal of Nursing Regulation, “Nursing Challenges Continue Into 2022”
- MedCity News, “5 Challenges Healthcare Faces in 2022 and Beyond”
- NBC News, “Nurse Burnout Remains a Serious Problem, Putting Patients in Danger, Experts Say”
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses