We have all heard the staggering statistics of the current workforce issues happening across the healthcare industry, and one of the biggest segments facing staffing issues is nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 203,200 openings for RNs each year through 2031 when nurse retirements and workforce exits are factored into the number of nurses needed in the U.S.
While there are many factors around why we have a nursing shortage currently, one of the areas that is often overlooked are the issues facing nurses who just graduated college and are transitioning into practice.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the divide between the demands of nursing programs and requirements of working in health systems has only grown. We are increasingly seeing an alarming number of young nurses leaving the profession shortly after receiving their degree partially because they are not receiving the hands-on experiences needed to prep them for this transition. Even if they are interacting with patients, they often aren’t forced to navigate the care of multiple patients at once like they would in a real-world care setting.
Because of this gap, technology can be a critical tool in helping the next generation of nurses get ready for their day-to-day professional lives. Specifically, virtual reality (VR) is giving us the ability to put multiple, diverse patient cases and hospital situations directly into the hands of nursing students – giving them experiences they have not had access to previously before they reach the bedside.
VR transports nurses to the hospital floor
COVID-19 forever changed the healthcare industry in countless ways and many of the opportunities that were available to students preparing for a career in healthcare, such as in-depth clinical rotations and managing a caseload of multiple patients, before the pandemic are now limited. One of the most important and formative times of a nursing student’s education is their clinical experiences – when the students go into the healthcare setting to see and react to patients alongside experienced nurses.
It is no secret that the U.S. has been struggling with a nursing workforce crisis for years, with healthcare organizations recruiting foreign nurses as a quick fix to fill swelling vacancies. During the pandemic, the influx of international nurses from the Philippines, Jamaica, India, Canada, and Africa increased significantly, up 44% from 2021 and 109% from 2018, according to the O’Grady Peyton International Inc. 2021 survey of International Nurses. Expected to continue in 2023, this trend may help to stem our national shortage in the short term but it also adds to nursing shortages felt abroad.
One country where we have seen a large number of nurses coming to the US to practice from is the Philippines. However, this has left the Philippines with a shortage of over 350,000 nurses, many who come to the U.S. for better wages and working conditions, explained Maria Rosario Vergiere, officer in charge for the Ministry of Health. These nurses who are looking to make an important change in their career raise a fundamental question: Is it ethical to take nurses from one country to fill the nursing shortage in another?
The migration of nurses from one country to another also exposes a larger issue: today’s nursing shortage is global, not just domestic. Countries and global nursing organizations need to work together to solve the nursing workforce crisis globally. The International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization are recognized leaders in addressing the global nursing shortage; however, they need equitable support from all nations to ensure the shortage is addressed from a global perspective.
International nursing challenges
While recruiting internationally trained nurses may seem like a quick fix, it brings with it a host of challenges along with it that are not always immediately clear. One example is that international nurses must pass the NCLEX exam; and they must adjust to cultural and scope of practice differences. CGFNS International, an immigration-neutral, nonprofit organization, assists internationally educated healthcare professionals wanting to live and work in a desired country. They assess and validate their academic and professional credentials, educating them on language, culture, and practice differences (CGFNS, 2023). The work of this organization has been instrumental over the years in helping acute, long-term care, and other healthcare organizations fill vacant nursing positions with foreign candidates.
International nurses have traditionally struggled to pass the NCLEX exam compared to U.S. nursing graduates due to some of the roadblocks they encounter in their move. In 2021, the first-time pass rate for the NCLEX-RN exam was 82.48% for U.S.-trained nurses and 46.48% for internationally trained nurses (CGFNS, 2022). As nurses attempt to pass the exam again, health systems could experience a strain in their onboarding process for them. However, the bar raises in April when the National State Boards of Nursing releases the Next Generation NCLEX exam for RNs and LPNs. The new NCLEX exam, which assesses clinical judgment and readiness to practice for graduating nurses, could adversely impact the already tenuous flow of internationally trained nurses eligible to work in America.
Will nurses trained in foreign countries be able to pass the Next Generation NCLEX examination? Will their scores be better or worse than the results on the current NCLEX exam? Only time will tell what impact the test changes will have on the international nurse pipeline.
The healthcare system simply wasn’t ready for COVID-19, and the pandemic has exposed the system’s weak links. The situation has become exacerbated by an ongoing workforce shortage. Not only are a growing number of clinicians nearing retirement, but also burnout — already a problem prior to the pandemic — has become what many are calling a parallel pandemic.
And this isn’t surprising. Nurses have been working overtime week after week, seeing tremendous loss of life firsthand, and now are being asked to support the vaccine rollout – to the tune of 11 million doses per week.
The most pressing question for healthcare tech right now is how can we curb nursing burnout in 2021?
This is a question we’ve been asking since the early days of Health IT, but new responsibilities over the last few months and growing rates of nurses leaving the profession have raised the alarm for technology companies to do more.
Healthcare leaders, clinicians, and educators have responded by developing innovative workforce solutions and education strategies to keep pace with changing care-delivery models. Specifically, around the vaccine rollout, we can ensure nurses have access to rapid, virtual education around administration best practices and patient education.
We also need to streamline the alerts going to these providers so they only receive the most actionable and important information at the point of care. These providers do not have the time to review every new study that comes out around COVID treatment options. Instead, we can leverage digital tools to provide evidence-based information that is actionable and available at the point of care.
This helps eliminate confusion around what action should be taken, and ensures all members of the care team feel empowered to care for their patients. For on-the-job training, as artificial intelligence becomes more refined and its use expands, algorithms could surface insights much earlier that generate mini-lessons, clinical updates, remediation, and reminders within existing workflows.
Wolters Kluwer, Health announces the release of EmmiEducate to improve alignment between patients and their care teams. With educational content tailored to a variety of learning and reading styles, and interoperability across disparate systems and access points, EmmiEducate gives providers the ability to easily support their patients’ information needs within their workflow, delivering easy-to-understand educational materials that mirror the guidance provided to patients during the clinical encounter.
Meeting patients where they are
EmmiEducate aids the expansion of virtual care delivery and helps providers reduce health inequities by more effectively reaching diverse populations through multiple touch points and modalities. EmmiEducate features hundreds of compelling videos, more than 8,000 leaflets in up to 20 languages, and presentation of educational materials at a fifth- to seventh-grade reading level, helping care teams provide content to patients in ways they can better understand and act on.
“How patient education is developed and shared directly impacts whether or not it will be used. Done right, educational touchpoints can improve patient understanding and adherence to their treatment plan, enhance the overall care experience, and build organizational affinity,” said Jason Burum, general manager, healthcare provider segment, clinical effectiveness, at Wolters Kluwer, Health. “By extending clinical decision support to patients, EmmiEducate aligns healthcare stakeholders in a manner that is convenient and highly effective for improving outcomes.”
New technology is set to have a significant impact on the classroom of the future for nursing education, as indicated by the results of a new survey of nurse educators published today by Wolters Kluwer, Health. “Forecast for the Future: Technology Trends in Nursing Education” identified respondents’ plans for technology usage, adoption, and investment during the next five years and shed light on the barriers and opportunities related to those initiatives.
This is the second survey of nursing school administrators, faculty, and deans conducted by Wolters Kluwer in collaboration with the National League for Nursing.
Post-COVID tech adoption
“Technology adoption was well underway in nursing education before the COVID-19 pandemic, but in transitioning to remote instruction, faculty quickly learned how diverse technologies can work together to give students an optimized, hybrid learning experience that they crave as digital learners,” said Julie Stegman, vice president, nursing segment of health learning, research and practice at Wolters Kluwer. “Educators are now seeing how technology investment can help address several of the longstanding challenges they face including clinical limitations, assessing students’ cumulative performance as they learn, and developing practice-ready nurses. That is a powerful shift.”
The survey found that 73% of institutions went fully online at the start of the pandemic and that technologies that aid in remote learning all had significant increases in adoption. Nearly 40% of respondents said they plan to offer more online courses in the future, and many forecast a continuation of the investment in technology seen during the pandemic.
Based on the survey data, the report predicts the classroom of the future will be a hybrid learning environment that is in-person and leverages existing and next-generation technologies including the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR).
By Jayne Marks, vice president of global publishing, Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research and Practice
While COVID-19 is at the forefront of physicians’ minds and taking up much of their learning, they must still find ways to stay current on their own specialties and ensure they are using the best available evidence and latest clinical guidelines to inform their practice.
One of the most trusted sources clinicians rely on to stay up to date is their professional medical society resources, foremost their specialty journal and annual meeting where critical practice updates are shared. In a Wolters Kluwer Physician Needs Assessment survey of nearly 1,600 US physicians conducted earlier in 2020 prior to the pandemic’s worldwide spread, the majority of physicians indicated that they would obtain health care information, resources or continuing medical education (CME) through medical societies – 78% said they would read peer-reviewed journals and 64% said they would attend annual meetings.
However, many annual meetings hosted by medical societies were cancelled in 2020 because of the safety risks associated with coronavirus and they may not revert to in-person formats in the near-future. In the absence of annual meetings and other gatherings to exchange research and ideas, physicians need other ways to stay current.
Understanding physician needs
For physicians looking to stay current in their specialty, there are three key needs:
Access to current information and evidence of the moment – “Staying current with new clinical trends/techniques” was among the top professional challenges identified by respondents to the Physician Needs Assessment survey.
Opportunities for continuing medical education – 31% of survey respondents indicated time or financial cost of maintenance of certification (MOC) as one of the top three professional challenges they will face over the next three years.
Ability to connect with peers – 50% of physicians surveyed identified “talking with a colleague who you know” as one of the top three sources for obtaining healthcare information.
Without these meetings, how will physicians get what they need?
Virtual tools: the new normal for time-pressed physicians
In today’s environment, the annual conference must be reimagined with the use of virtual tools. While this will be a significant shift, technology can provide significant advantages for both physicians and medical societies including new opportunities for engagement and information sharing.
By Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, chief nurse, Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research and Practice.
These are the days we never thought we’d see – unimagined times, pushing our nurses and healthcare workers to the brink with the demands of COVID-19. They’ve stepped up with unbelievable courage and resiliency. They’ve done so without many of the resources they’ve traditionally had, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment. But one thing that’s undoubtedly made a difference is technology.
Patients have been able to interact with their primary care provider and nurses via telehealth ensuring that patients are able to continue with the medications and treatment plans for chronic conditions and new issues.
In the acute care space, it has enabled patients to visit with their family through digital technology, and providers and nurses have been able to update the families on patients’ progress.
After patients are discharged with COVID-19, the patient is in daily contact with a nurse to make sure their condition isn’t worsening, and they understand how to care for themselves. This works to ensure patients have follow-up care and the family is supported. And those are just a few ways.
While the survey was taken prior to the pandemic, the results give insight into the role of technology as it applies to both next-generation nurses (those with less than 10 years of practice) and more experienced ones. The survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer aimed to explore the mindset of today’s nurses and healthcare workers, so hospitals can respond accordingly.
Digital natives versus techno-phobes
When looking at next-generation nurses, we should keep in mind that many of them grew up in a time with widespread use of the internet, social media, and mobile communication. Many nurses with longer tenure began their careers when the internet was in its infancy and computers weren’t an integral part of a hospital’s operations.
Next-generation nurses are, for the most part, digital natives. That comfort level does tend to influence their opinions: when care is better, next-generation nurses think it’s because of technology. 84% believe clinical-decision support systems at the point of care are making it easier to make the most informed, evidenced-based care decisions.
In addition, 84% feel specialized systems that provide treatment recommendations and integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) have a positive impact on how care is delivered.
Their understanding of technology may be a factor in them spending less time in EHRs than their more seasoned counterparts; 69% report spending too much time in EHRs, compared to 81% of more experienced nurses.
Next-generation nurses are fans of artificial intelligence (AI). 63% say they are optimistic that the use of AI will help providers get the information they need to make better care decisions.
Experienced nurses weren’t as convinced, with only half agreeing that AI will help in making better care decisions. (This insight should alert hospital leaders of the need to educate staff on how AI can improve clinical decision making so that implementation of AI will be viewed as a positive and not as a negative.)
Nurses play an all important role in healthcare’s shift from sick care to wellness-based models as the front-line professionals closest to patients. Always an intricate balance of art and science, nursing practice most continue to evolve to place patients where they should have been all along—in the center of care.
An independent survey commissioned by Wolters Kluwer of nearly 2,000 consumers, nurses, doctors, and healthcare executives in the U.S. provides insights into the top trends that will shape priorities over the next few years – for care teams, hospital leaders, health systems and consumers.
The below infographic details key findings related to challenges and opportunities impacting the nursing profession including perspectives on:
the impact of professional shortages
the growing importance of holistic care that addresses social determinants of health
generational differences between practicing nurses
More than ever, nurses need to demonstrate knowledge, confidence, competence, professionalism, empathy and kindness. And they need to be equipped with the right evidence-based tools and education resources to thrive in a changing healthcare landscape.