For nurse executives, the way forward is contingent on seven strategic imperatives.
1. Proactively shape nursing workforce policies to focus on career satisfaction and advancement.
Even before Covid-19, burnout, workplace violence and other issues affected nurses’ professional satisfaction and willingness to continue working. Providing opportunities to rotate among units and pursue lifelong learning can positively impact the retention of nurses, but the overall focus has to be all encompassing—physical and mental well-being. Going forward, nurse leaders must recognize the need for building resiliency into the workforce and stay aligned with nurses’ priorities of reducing burnout, maintaining a safe work environment and optimizing competencies.
2. Formalize alternative care-delivery models to enable an agile and flexible workforce.
Once the virus exposed gaps and shortages, a redirect was necessary—forming tiered teams and utilizing nurses and other care professionals from other disciplines, units, hospitals and areas. To keep these synergies going, nurse leaders must push for the implementation of flexible alternative care models, look for cross-training opportunities across like units and utilize better “rapid onboarding.”
3. Engage in health policy to advance the use of nurse-led telehealth models.
With its ability to safely and securely address patient needs, telehealth is here to stay. Since only 24% of U.S. healthcare organizations had existing virtual care programs in January 2020, nurse leaders can advocate for putting Telehealth programs in place in order to facilitate access to care.
4. Build social determinants of health (SDoH) into the bones of interdisciplinary care-delivery models.
Having a 360-degree view of patients can impact outcomes, so nurse executives can drive for including determinants such as financial situation, social support, access to care, housing and food security and transportation ability in the patient record. Then all healthcare team members can work to connect patients to resources and adapt an interdisciplinary plan of care accordingly.
5. Foster programs that make nurses change agents in the community.
Understanding the needs of the community facilitates building strong community-based care-delivery models supported by a wide range of stakeholder organizations and healthcare systems. When stakeholders join forces to identify areas of care and social inequity, the team can pinpoint strategies that meet those needs. Nurse leaders can successfully orchestrate these collaborations.
6. Expand education and clinical training programs for new nurses.
The nursing shortage necessitates bringing fresh talent into the profession. That talent pipeline relies on high quality education and clinical training programs. Nurse executives and nurse faculty must put a priority on this, as well as building the competencies to enable practice-ready new nurses in a time where being prepared for the realities of healthcare has never been more important.
7. Manage care variability through access to the same evidence-based resources across disciplines.
An overwhelming majority of nurse executives agree that care variability is an issue that impacts quality outcomes. So, what can be done? Better alignment across teams, in many cases, is a matter of making sure all team members can access the same evidence-based resources in order to support decision making and clinical judgment.
Stepping into tomorrow, focusing on and committing to these initiatives can be instrumental in building a framework for success for nurse executives.