Synopsis: Some of the biggest challenges we face as nurses today include:
- Rapidly expanding knowledge and changing practices
- Growing deficits in nursing staff and educators
- Increasing workplace violence and hazards.
While all these challenges are complex, investing in innovative education and technologies can help keep us current, make quality training more readily available, raise awareness, and improve patient outcomes. In addition, continuing your education can lead to more career opportunities and higher job satisfaction overall.
As a nurse today, many of us tackle long shifts, see an increasing number of patients, face growing workplace risks, and experience rapidly changing medical practices and technologies. Even as we find ourselves with more demands and less time, the need for continuing education and training is increasing. How can we not only keep pace but find the time and energy to improve patient outcomes?
Here are a few of the biggest challenges facing nurses today and one way to combat these growing problems:
1. Rapidly expanding knowledge and changing practices.
Medical best practices are evolving at an exponential rate. In “Challenges and opportunities facing medical education,” Peter Densen, MD, states: “It is estimated that the doubling time of medical knowledge in 1950 was 50 years; in 1980, 7 years; and in 2010, 3.5 years. In 2020 it is projected to be 0.2 years — just 73 days.”1
With this explosive growth of medical knowledge, keeping current on changing best practices is becoming more critical and overwhelming than ever before while how to disseminate new training and information becomes a growing challenge.
2. Growing deficits in nursing staff and educators.
The number of elderly or critically ill patients is rising even as hospitals are experiencing an increasing shortage of nurses.2 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the RN workforce is projected to grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026.3 This is during a time when we are expected to see an accelerating rate of RN retirements4 and a shortage of RNs across the United States, particularly in the South and West.5
In 2018, nursing schools turned away 75,029 qualified applicants because of limited faculty, space, or budget.6 These restraints on nursing schools can potentially exacerbate the nursing shortage in coming years. As hospitals across the country are beginning to feel the impacts of the nursing deficit, those of us who are current staff are expected to work longer shifts and handle more patients, which can quickly lead to burnout, fatigue, and job dissatisfaction.7
3. Increasing workplace violence and hazards.
According to the American Nurse Association (ANA), 1 in 4 nurses are assaulted on the job.8 However, much of the workplace violence against our colleagues goes unreported. The ANA estimates that only 20 to 60% of incidents are reported.8 Edith Brous, a former RN who works as a nurse attorney in New York, shared that “Most disturbingly, some nurses do not report [workplace violence] because they believe it is part of their job.”9
In the last decade, violence against nurses rose significantly, “with some studies suggesting a 110% spike in the rate of violent injuries against healthcare workers,” Brielle Benyon writes in “Violence against nurses: a major issue in healthcare.”9 In addition, we face unique hazards on the job, including the risk of injury as well as exposure to diseases and blood-borne pathogens.7 Increased training, education, administrative programs, and legislation are essential to combating the rise in violence against nurses.
The Beginning to a Solution
How can we stay current on changing practices while still taking care of more patients with a smaller staff? How can we grow the healthcare workforce when educational staff and opportunities aren’t keeping pace? How can we raise awareness of growing needs and challenges in the workforce?
While all these challenges are multifaceted, there is one underlying solution that can alleviate some of the strain: education.
Though technology has facilitated the explosive expansion of medical knowledge, it also provides us with new, flexible ways to disseminate knowledge, raise awareness, and receive critical training.
With the current changes within the healthcare industry, now, more than ever, we need administrators, politicians, and companies to begin investing in innovative education that is scalable, builds competence and skill, fits around healthcare workers’ busy schedules, increases safety, and improves patient outcomes.
At CareerCert, that’s our focus. We are advocates for working toward education solutions that are not only accessible but that truly better the lives of healthcare professionals and their patients. We provide online continuing education and critical certifications to help you easily stay current on training that will make a vital difference.
Investing in continuing education can benefit your career in many proven ways:
1. Ensures better patient care and improved patient outcomes.
According to the Alliance for Continuing Education in Health Professions, “substantial literature exists indicating that continuing education (CE) in the health professions is effective in improving healthcare, patient outcomes and population health.”10
2. Facilitates personal and career growth and improves job satisfaction.
The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation noted that continuing education engages learners in new growth, skills, and knowledge; integrates your understanding with your performance; generates professional satisfaction; validates a medical professional’s competence; and helps medical professionals avoid burnout.11 Continuing your education can facilitate your professional growth, introduce you to new concepts or careers, build your network, and help you be prepared to seize new opportunities when they arise.
3. Protects both patients and healthcare providers.
In the article “Continuing education for healthcare professionals,” Monica Fletcher notes “that education improves the confidence and competence of practitioners” and can result in meaningful practice changes. Continually refreshing your skills ensures those you care for reach the best outcomes and protects you against mistakes, regret, lawsuits, and litigation.
While many of the problems we experience in nursing today cannot be solved overnight, starting now to invest in continuing education will guide us closer to making lasting changes that count.
***For a simple solution to stay up to date on critical certifications, visit CareerCert. We provide flexible ACLS, BLS, PALS, and NRP certifications that fit around your schedule so you will have more time to focus on what matters most—providing exceptional care.
- Densen P. Challenges and opportunities facing medical education. Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2011;122:48–58.
- Fawaz MA, Hamdan-Mansou AM, Tassi A. Challenges facing nursing education in the advanced healthcare environment. International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences. 2018;9:105-110. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijans.2018.10.005.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Registered Nurses. September 4, 2019. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm. Accessed January 30, 2020.
- Buerhaus PI, Skinner LE, Auerbach DI, Staiger DO. Four Challenges Facing the Nursing Workforce in the United States. Journal of Nursing Regulation. 2017;8(2):40-46. doi:10.1016/s2155-8256(17)30097-2.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing shortage. April 1, 2019. https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage. Accessed January 28, 2020.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing faculty shortage. April 2019. https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/nursing-faculty-shortage. Accessed January 28, 2020.
- Gooch K. 5 of the biggest issues nurses face today. Becker’s Hospital Review. August 13, 2015. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-resources/5-of-the-biggest-issues-nurses-face-today.html. Accessed January 25, 2020.
- Protect yourselves, protect your patients. American Nurses Association. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/work-environment/end-nurse-abuse/. Accessed January 30, 2020.
- Benyon B. Violence against nurses: A major issue in healthcare. Oncology Nursing News. August 15, 2019. https://www.oncnursingnews.com/web-exclusives/violence-against-nurses-a-major-issue-in-healthcare. Accessed January 27, 2020.
- Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions. “The value of continuing education in the health professions.”
- Josiah Macy Foundation. “Lifelong learning in medicine and nursing.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 2010
- Fletcher M. Continuing education for healthcare professionals: time to prove its worth. PrimaryCare Respiratory Journal. 2007; 16(3): 188-190.