Looking Forward: Issues Vital to the Future of Nursing

Looking Forward: Issues Vital to the Future of Nursing

As the largest contingent within the health care workforce, nurses are vital to shaping the future of not just their profession but medicine as a whole. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, seasoned nurses and those currently studying to join their ranks must come together to tackle the issues that are critical to the future of nursing.

The first step is gathering information and seeking to understand complex issues such as antibiotic resistance, environmental sustainability, and remote accessibility. Nurses who work in clinical environments must collaborate with nurses in non-clinical roles to formulate evidence-based action plans that include educating the general public.

The public places great trust in nurses, and while the media may choose to feature doctors in its coverage, regular people generally reach out to nurses for honest information and level-headed advice. Simply put, when nurses talk, people listen. The public trust they’ve cultivated puts them in a unique and powerful position to bring about change in nursing and propel the health care industry into the future. It is a challenging yet exciting time to be in the nursing profession.

Antibiotic Resistance

Ask any nurse what their primary responsibility is, and they will likely answer that they have to protect their patients from otherwise preventable harm. The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria , also known as “superbugs,” is making this task more difficult. One of the most vital issues to the future of nursing is understanding how to protect patients from superbugs and educate the public about antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when, over time, bacteria adapt to drugs that are formulated to kill them. When the bacteria changes as a means of ensuring survival, this renders widely-used treatments for infections significantly less effective, and in some cases, completely ineffective. Medical professionals have linked drug-resistant bacteria to pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections. In some extreme cases, the patient has even died.

Unfortunately, because it is a naturally occurring phenomenon, antibiotic resistance cannot be stopped. However, it can be slowed. For this to happen, the public must be educated on the proper use of antibiotics. As one of society’s most trusted voices, nurses must lead the educational charge and raise awareness. Furthermore, since they make up the majority of the health care workforce, nurses’ commitment to proper cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing would go a long way in combating antibiotic resistance.

Environmental Sustainability

Like antibiotic resistance, another issue vital to the future of nursing is environmental sustainability. All industries have an ecological footprint, and the health care industry is no exception. In fact, the health care industry is one of the primary culprits. Currently, industry practices account for a large percentage of the country’s energy consumption and pollution emissions including 10% of the nation’s greenhouse gases.

When nurses treat patients with environmental-related illnesses, there’s a chance that it was the health care industry’s ecological impact that made them sick in the first place. Over the years, nurses and other health care providers have made efforts with sustainability, but there’s still more that needs to be done.

Nurses, perhaps better than any other medical professional, understand the limited resources their industry must contend with. This puts them in an influential spot to enact eco-friendly strategies such as using plastic more intentionally and promoting renewable energy.

Remote Accessibility

One strategy nurses can use to embrace environmental sustainability and provide better care to more patients is prioritizing remote accessibility. Telemedicine, which relies on telecommunications, allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients without needing to be face to face.

Even before the era of social distancing, remote accessibility was in high demand. Cost and location force people to choose between their health and spending time and money to attend regular checkups. People living in rural communities disproportionately have inadequate access to health care. Nurse educators teach other nurses that preventative care is essential to the health and well-being of the communities they serve.

Improving accessibility could also help improve the overall efficiency of a health care organization. Nurses wouldn’t need to spread themselves as thin since people with symptoms that can be managed from home could be treated via telemedicine. With more people attending their regular checkups and showing up (albeit virtually) for follow-ups, there are more opportunities for preventive care that could also lighten nurses’ workload in the long run.

Remote accessibility, environmental sustainability, and antibiotic resistance are three of the most important issues demanding the attention of the health care industry. Change needs to happen, and nurses are the ones to lead it. Because of their trusted position, nurses can positively influence their medical colleagues as well as the general public. The future of nursing runs parallel to that of the health care industry, and if nurses step up and make a strong case for a particular course of action, they can determine the direction of both.