The world is changing, and the healthcare sector is also evolving. With rapid digitalization and an aging global mean age, patient care is going through a revolution. People view healthcare as a commodity rather than a service. Deep-rooted problems in the healthcare sector, such as high costs and limited resources, are making matters even worse. Indeed, most experts agree that the world is going through a global shortage of competent medical professionals.
The United States alone will face a shortage of 122,000 physicians in the next two decades. With so many obstacles, it is no wonder the national healthcare sector is going through a crisis. The situation is dire, but there is still hope for improvement. With effective leadership, we can not only address these issues but also transform the health care system.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the healthcare system sorely needs reforms. While changes in patient care and education can resolve some problems, long-term change requires strong leadership. Nurses can play a central role in targeting fundamental issues in healthcare as they are primary caregivers. They can create an accessible and high-quality healthcare system with a patient-centered approach. Nursing is one of the most versatile roles in healthcare. Since they spend the most time with patients, nurses are crucial in improving the quality of care. Nurses have to meet the diverse needs of patients and lead other professionals to improve quality care.
Nurses can only become better leaders when they know what they are talking about. Fundamental changes in healthcare systems and the practice environment require an improved education system. Currently, most nurses only have a baccalaureate-level degree, with only 1% having a postgraduate degree. However, the evolving healthcare sector needs students who are well versed in the latest techniques. Therefore nurses should achieve higher levels of education to care for sicker and more vulnerable patients. For example, nurses holding degrees from online DNP programs can shape care policies to provide better direct patient care. Such nurses can work as nurse researchers and nurse faculty members. Not only can this address the nurse faculty shortages, but it can also improve the delivery of care.
Most hospitals hire people with a minimum undergraduate in nursing. Research suggests that nurses with BSN degrees are more efficient and competent. Fortunately, nurses have many facilities to help them continue their education. Distance learning programs can play a fundamental role in training nurses since they are flexible. Furthermore, they can help nurses get familiar with the technology they will have to use in the future.
Impediments to transforming education for better leadership
There are many barriers to improving the educational qualifications of the nursing sector. The most pressing issue is that most nursing schools cannot teach prospective students. The reason for this is that there is a scarcity of competent nursing faculty. Secondly, placement opportunities are limited, and the curriculum does not meet the needs of the 21st century. Fortunately, the Washington Institute of Medicine is actively working on these problems. They aspire to improve baccalaureate-level education by 80% in the next ten years.
Previously nurses were considered nothing more than sidekicks of the physicians. But this attitude is changing. As the healthcare system integrates technology, nurses are becoming full partners in redesigning healthcare. Today’s nurses play a central role in healthcare. Not only do they collaborate with leaders from other professions, but they also step in for physicians.
Nurses must take responsibility to make the healthcare sector more efficient by identifying improvements to care. They often devise and implement plans for improvement and track progress. Most nurses double up as patient advocates. So they are involved in policymaking about the delivery of care procedures.
However, effective leadership is not just about making decisions within the healthcare policy arena. Nurses must build new partnerships with leaders from other health systems such as pharma and public health officials. To tap this potential, nurses must hone their leadership skills.
There are two sets of competencies a nurse must possess. One is specific, and the other is common. The AACN recommends these competencies for better leadership. Nurse leaders must be intimately aware of the care delivery system and how to collaborate across disciplines. They must also know how to become a patient advocate and improve patient safety and satisfaction. They must also have some knowledge about the basics of the regulatory framework and market forces.
Most people believe that leadership works from the top. However, that is not the case. Effective leadership must be a collaborative effort. Therefore, we need it at every level of the healthcare institution. So, nurses cannot pick and choose their responsibilities. They must work on the frontlines, in administration, as policymakers, and in clinical settings.
Furthermore, nurses must take charge of leadership in care delivery. While nurses can often step up for other medical professionals, others cannot do the same. They do not have the experience or the time to respond to the concerns of the patient. Therefore nurses must take leadership roles in such circumstances. They must be assertive and advocate for the patients.
Leadership programs and mentorship for transformative leadership
However, nurses need mentorship and training to assume leadership. Not everyone is a born leader, and some may need more help to become competent leaders. Going to business school is not a feasible option for everyone. Luckily, nurses can enroll in integrated nursing programs that focus on leadership in a healthcare system. Not only do these programs improve decision-making, but they also provide nurses with insight into the business side of things.
Mentorship is also a way to foster effective leadership in nurses. Nurses can learn best practices and resources from experienced professionals. They can also build their network.
Effective leadership requires political will and dedication. Fortunately, the enactment of ACA has made medical professionals realize the worth and importance of nurse leadership in transforming healthcare. But, to become better leaders, nurses must hone their skills and improve their knowledge. They must develop partnerships and think beyond the health care systems to bring meaningful change.