The battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly led to accolades for the many healthcare professionals working on the front lines in the battle against the virus. But for those in the nursing profession, it’s also led to changes that might shape the future of nursing.
For the general population, there is now a widespread and growing understanding that they will have to adjust to a new normal. As for healthcare workers, the pandemic has likely forever changed the landscape of their industry.
For current nurses and those pursuing a degree in nursing, these changes will have a significant impact on their careers. It’s not lost on them that this is all happening in 2020, named “The Year of the Nurse” before the pandemic began.
“The effects of COVID-19 will long be seen throughout the nursing profession,” according to Nurse.org. “And despite everything that it has taken from nurses, nursing students, and prospective nurses – the Year of the Nurse will continue to show that nurses are resilient, dedicated, and compassionate.”
Here are some ways COVID-19 could impact the future of nursing.
The Future of Nursing: A Broad Range of Skills
Even those outside the healthcare profession understood by the end of March 2020 the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. The need for a well-equipped healthcare system continues to be an issue.
But for nurses, it drives home the need to have a diverse skill set. A broad range of skills aided nurses who worked with patients, both those with COVID-19 and those who found themselves dealing with patients with other healthcare issues outside of their usual area of expertise.
Healthcare reform may become another result of the pandemic. As millions lost their jobs, they also lost their healthcare insurance. These changes are a political issue, outside the control of healthcare clinicians. How or if anything changes remains unknown. But reform could radically change the delivery of healthcare in the United States and the future of nursing.
The Emergence of Telemedicine
Most doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals prefer to see patients in person. They feel a face-to-face meeting gives them a better connection with their patients. However, the pandemic has shown the convenience of telemedicine in many situations.
The benefits of telemedicine include:
- Keeping patients safe by avoiding exposure to the coronavirus
- Improving access to healthcare for those who cannot easily get to a doctor’s office
- Cutting costs for healthcare operations
- Contributing to sustainability and less greenhouse gas emissions because of fewer car trips to the doctor
Telemedicine also offers doctors and nurses a glimpse into the personal lives of patients, which can help them better understand any environmental factors that might impact their health.
Of course, telemedicine will not work for patients who need a physical examination, a shot, or a blood draw. But it has opened the door to handling some doctor’s visits remotely.
The Importance of Public Health
The coronavirus also clearly shows the need for strong public health initiatives. Public health focuses on providing services to people and communities where they live and work. It puts a priority on educating people on life choices they can make to prevent or lower the chances of developing certain diseases.
This has proven especially important during the pandemic. Nurses have played a lead role in educating the public on habits that promote wellness and prevent them from catching the virus, such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of masks.
Rather than treating those who are sick, public health strives to keep people from getting ill or injured in the first place. Nurses who work in public health promote wellness by teaching and encouraging healthy lifestyles. They also teach people about the risks of unhealthy choices such as using tobacco, abusing alcohol, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough exercise.
Public health nurses work to get vaccinations to everyone in the community and develop nutrition plans for community members. This work is most often done in underserved communities, such as inner-city or rural areas.
These COVID-19-related factors could all have an impact on the nursing profession going forward. The best degree programs will include an education in the latest information and best practices surrounding these critical aspects of nursing in a post-pandemic world.