Nurses: The Force for Change

pexels-photo-433267This week marks National Nurses Week in the U.S., both a celebration of the profession and an opportunity to educate the public about the role nurses play in healthcare and their communities. This year’s theme of “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence” highlights three concepts that overlap and reflect the innate role nurses play in patient care, as well as drawing attention to the personality types often drawn to nursing.

Nurses Driving Change

Nurses’ primary focus is on the quality of care, comfort and safety of their patients. Through their compassionate care, they often inspire the next generation of nursing professionals. I personally know this is true, as my mother is a nurse and hearing her stories influenced my own career path.

Additionally, hospital floors are a collaborative environment and mentors often not only train and inspire new colleagues, but also serve as advocates for their peers and participate in focus groups to initiate evidence-based nursing practice in their patient units. Mentors help newer nurses build the confidence needed to grow professionally and personally and realize their potential to affect patient care.

Nurses also play a big role in solving problems plaguing hospitals, as their firsthand experience offers a good sense of patient safety needs and areas for efficiency improvements. Frequently the organizers of hospitals’ better practice and outcomes teams, nurses are often the source of innovative ideas that improve workflows and internal processes.

It is vital that nurses feel empowered to influence leadership and help implement large-scale changes that will improve patient care. While different health systems have different approaches to employee-driven change, department heads and chief nursing officers typically welcome ideas that will ultimately benefit patient outcomes, increase efficiencies and support nursing satisfaction. This practice demonstrates nurses’ passion for both their patients and the nursing profession.

Traditionally, the nurses’ role was limited in the hospital. Now, however, nurses are active participants in multiple sectors including technology, pharmaceuticals, education, law (as malpractice consultants), government and public health. Nurses are taking their responsibility as patient advocates an extra level higher by providing more input at a legislative level and getting involved in federal lobbying to help drive change in our healthcare system. Nurses are even playing a larger role in fashion by designing scrubs, and in architecture, by helping to design hospital units. Their experience and knowledge allows them to be a force for change in multiple disciplines within their communities.

Supporting Nurses’ Success and Growth

As nurses increasingly play a bolder role in healthcare, health IT vendors and hospital leadership have a responsibility to help foster growth and success for nurses. Both parties need to remember that maintaining nursing satisfaction is as important as improving efficiency.

For example, when hospitals transitioned to electronic medical records, the new documentation process was considered efficient by leadership, but some nurses felt stressed with the technology and unhappy with the change. Lack of concern for nurses’ well-being and satisfaction can lead to burnout and can ultimately impact patient care. For hospitals, it is important for leadership to visit the front lines so they can get a better sense of nurses’ needs, conduct surveys to gather staff feedback, and be welcoming and supportive of receiving regular input from nurses. For vendors, creating technology that meets nurses where they are and how they work can ensure quality care and outcomes, nursing satisfaction and improved clinical efficiency.

Additionally, as health systems seek to retain talent, they should consider how they can support nurses’ continuing education and graduate school reimbursement, while also encouraging opportunities to lobby for healthcare initiatives. In one of my roles at a pediatric hospital, my team in the cardiac care space was encouraged to participate with the American Heart Association and events such as meeting with members of Congress to lobby for resources for cardiac patients. These opportunities expand our mindsets and allow nurses to advocate for our patients at the highest level possible.

Nurses are proving that they are a force to be reckoned with, both within the hospital and beyond. Whether designing new workflows, hospital units, or scrubs, nurses are expanding their roles for good. Being a nurse is not only highly rewarding, but also a great responsibility. I have never been prouder to see the progress nurses are making to affect lasting change in healthcare.