What the Pandemic Taught Us About the Changing Role of Nurses
Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, it was widely acknowledged that the United States was experiencing a lack of health-care providers. This trend was confirmed in a June 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which indicated that the United States might suffer a physician shortage ranging from 37,800 to 124,000 by 2034, depending on the region.
Nurses are increasingly being called upon to serve as primary caregivers in hospitals and clinics around the country, in part because of this increased need. Nurses account for the biggest proportion of the nation's healthcare workforce*, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses working in the United States.
Patients are increasingly turning to nurses for primary care for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is necessity. Nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners have a primary focus on promoting optimal health, which includes not just providing care for the sick but also providing recommendations to help with long-term health. This model of care establishes a relationship between the nurse and the patient, with an emphasis on improving long-term health in addition to treating illness. Nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners are known for putting a strong emphasis on health maintenance as part of their daily practice. "Across all conditions, nurse practitioners (NPs) deliver health education to patients more frequently than physicians," according to the findings of a study on chronic disease prevention by Ritsema TS, Bingenheimer JB, Scholting P, and colleagues+. In accordance with the American College of Nurse-Midwives' definition, midwifery care encompasses health promotion, illness prevention, wellness education and counseling, as well as comprehensive primary care services, including maternity care. Cesarean section rates, interventions, and preterm birth have all been demonstrated to be lower when midwifery care is provided.
Midwifery and nurse practitioner care are not intended to be a substitute for physician care. A single type of provider cannot supply all of the services required in the health care industry because health care services are complicated. To provide the entire array of services required, it is necessary to assemble a group of different sorts of providers. According to one study, patients receiving care from primary care physicians only obtained 55% of the chronic and preventive therapies that were suggested to them by their doctors. Physicians are overworked, according to the reason behind the gap. According to the findings of the study, nurse practitioners or physician assistants might provide 50-70 percent of preventative services and 25 percent-47 percent of chronic care services. We can ensure that patients receive all of the necessary services, as well as preventative and chronic care services**, if we all work together.
During the height of the epidemic, the competence and adaptability of nurses were thrust into sharp relief. Due to the overcrowding in hospitals and clinics, the healthcare system was stretched to its breaking point. Additional responsibility and leadership positions were assigned to nurses, including the organization of drive-through testing and immunization stations as well as the supervision of clinics and other medical facilities. Some went long distances, abandoning their families for weeks or months at a time, to provide care for patients in rural and urban areas where additional resources were desperately required.
While provider shortages have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic, this shortage was always a known problem prior to the outbreak and will continue to be a problem following it. Patients in underprivileged populations and rural places are more at danger as a result of the shortage of health care providers. A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which was previously cited, indicated that "if underprivileged areas experienced the same health-care use patterns as groups with fewer barriers to access, current demand may climb by an additional 74,100 to 145,500 physicians." "This study highlights the systemic variations in annual use of health-care services between insured and uninsured persons, between individuals living in urban and rural areas, and between individuals of different races and ethnicities," the researchers write.
Frontier Nursing University is pleased to be recognized as a pioneer in the reforms necessary to address the lack of healthcare providers. A key part of Frontier's mission is to "provide accessible nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education in order to prepare competent, entrepreneurial, ethical, and compassionate leaders in primary care to serve all individuals, with a particular emphasis on women and families in diverse, rural, and underserved communities." Graduate-level students seeking advanced nurse practitioner and nurse-midwifery degrees are represented among our students. For many people, taking two years off work to pursue an advanced degree is not an option since they have a family to support. They must be able to continue working in the area where they now reside while still obtaining advanced degrees in the same field.
FNU was established in rural Hyden, Kentucky, in 1939, and, despite having had a considerable influence, our reach was limited due to our geographical isolation. In 1989, we implemented a distance learning approach that allowed students from all over the country to attend FNU from the comfort of their own homes, requiring only a few journeys to campus each semester. The fact that 70% of FNU's more than 2,500 students live in health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) demonstrates the potential impact of FNU graduates in underserved areas.
Many of our 8,000 alumni have been on the front lines of the pandemic, and we are grateful for their service. Some have worked as travel nurses in pandemic hot zones, while others have given the first vaccination doses to remote Alaskan towns by boat. Some have worked as travel nurses in pandemic hot zones. Some hospitals have created processes to assist patients in avoiding busy lobbies. Others were able to pull off the incredible accomplishment of starting their own clinics during the height of the pandemic, which was truly astounding. Meanwhile, the distance learning methodology used by FNU enabled the vast majority of our students to complete their studies uninterrupted.
Much of what we previously know has been brought to light as a result of the pandemic. It has proven yet again the need for reform in our healthcare system, as well as the fact that nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners must play a greater role in the health and well-being of our communities in the future. It was brought to our attention by the pandemic that primary health care services delivered by advanced practice nurses and nurse-midwives are both safe and effective. In order to achieve the best possible health outcomes for our country, nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and physicians must collaborate more than ever before.