The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the nursing field, with nurse leaders calling for lasting change. For two decades, nursing has continued to be the most trusted profession. With this reputation and post-pandemic nursing recognition, it is time to advocate and reposition the nursing profession.
A Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree equips nursing professionals with the necessary skills to adapt and learn from the changing landscape of nursing in a post-COVID world. Below are three significant changes that will impact tomorrow’s healthcare environment and the high demand for well-trained nursing professionals.
1. Telehealth Revolution
During the peak of COVID-19, organizations quickly pivoted from in-person to telehealth visits. With virtual health or telehealth, patients receive some of their care via video or phone visits, remote monitoring with wearables or apps and communication through a patient portal. Even with the decline of the COVID-19 threat, some organizations report up to half of the visits remain remote.
Nurses already use telehealth for many aspects of care, mainly if they work in ambulatory care, for efforts like prevention, triage, symptom management, counseling, clinical trial awareness and education.
Health equity efforts in nursing must focus on technology access (digital poverty) and technology health literacy. Nurses can ask patients the following questions:
- Do you have a cell phone, and if so, is it a flip phone or smartphone?
- Is this phone stable, or do you sometimes have to turn it off due to finances?
- Can you show me how to use a pharmacy app or the patient portal?
Newer nursing roles supporting telehealth services include case management, care coordinator, nurse navigator, telehealth nurse, telehealth nurse navigator or virtual patient observation. Regardless of position, the rise in telehealth usage requires all nurses to improve their technology assessments, evaluate patient resources and develop creative solutions.
2. Travel or Contract Employment
The image of travel or contract nursing is evolving from a nurse traveling to different geographical areas to providing a short-term contract staffing solution in their community. Traditionally, gaps in staffing were from medical or maternity leave, seasonal nurse positions (especially in “snowbird” populations like in Florida or Arizona) or during natural disaster recovery. For example, during the pandemic, many nurses answered distress calls from “hot zones” traveling to New York, California or New Jersey to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients. Currently, instead of alleviating the pandemic crisis, contract nurses are helping manage the nursing shortage crisis.
Today, contract nurses may work in one facility or within several facilities in a larger healthcare organization within their community. For example, one nurse might have a six-month, full-time neonatal intensive care unit contract with the likelihood of multiple contract renewals. The benefit to them is much higher premium wages with potential insurance benefits.
Contract nurses are in high demand in acute care specialty areas such as intensive care units, emergency rooms, oncology care and neonatal services. Still, contract roles are expanding to include outpatient rehabilitation services, correctional facilities, utilization management and even travel nurse educator.
Even if nurses do not explore a contract position, contract colleagues need support. These nurses need preceptors and mentors to help them navigate the care environment, learn about specific resources and follow organizational policies and procedures. “Mentorship provides a whole new level of support and guidance for them,” states Rose Torrento, President, CEO and Chief Nursing Officer of a nationwide staffing agency.
3. Behavioral Health Awareness
Even before COVID-19, behavioral health services demand was rising, with approximately 21% of the population having emotional, mental or substance abuse issues. Sheilah McGlone, RN, CCM, care management consultant, states, “The pandemic, although catastrophic, has raised awareness of mental health issues and substance disorders. It is no longer a secret.” Overall, COVID-19 was a wake-up call to action for behavioral health initiatives in multiple countries.
Even if nurses do not work as mental health nurses, all nurses can include specific behavioral health interventions in their practice. For example, they can identify at-risk patients, suggest non-clinical digital mental health tools such as Calm or Headspace apps and connect patients with behavioral health professional resources. Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been more awareness about the unmet needs of people of color and LGBTQ+ persons to create health equity. In addition, nurses can help identify obstacles to mental health for racial, ethnic or gender-diverse groups.
The pandemic revealed or intensified many healthcare issues and gaps in patient care, treatment processes and provider support systems. In addition, shifts in healthcare priorities require nurses to have new or better knowledge, skills and attitudes. The University of Illinois Chicago’s online RN to BSN program provides further education for nurses to create and deliver solutions to meet healthcare demands in the modern, changing landscape.
Learn more about the University of Illinois Chicago’s online RN to BSN program.