Nursing and Healthcare Trends for 2022

Medical practices should regularly review new healthcare trends in the nursing profession – so the practices can anticipate what compliance issues the practices need to address and what new trends may improve their practice and business. While many medical practices focus on technology and physician trends, there are always new trends in the nursing profession too.

Nurse Journal recently discussed some of the new nursing and healthcare trends for 2022. Some of the new trends are in response to the pandemic. Other trends should continue even when the pandemic ends. Readers should understand that the baby boomer generation is aging and retiring. Many of the nursing and healthcare needs for seniors will need to expand to fully treat this segment of the population.

Job growth in the nursing profession

Right now, there is a major shortage of nurses. Some of the causes of the shortage include:

  • The need for many more nurses due to the increase in hospitalizations, physician, and emergency care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Many nurse educators are retiring.
  • Nurse burnout due to the pandemic.
  • An aging population as discussed above.
  • Many nurses are reaching retirement age.
  • A shortage of nurses in rural areas.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that job growth for registered nurses (RNs) through 2030 will be 9%. BLS estimates that the job growth for advanced practical nurses through 2030 will be 45%.

Many patients will prefer home health care

Patients will likely increase demand for home healthcare nurses in the next decade. Home health care is especially desirable for patients who have medical complications such as COVID-19. The US Congress is currently considering legislation called the Choose Home Care Act which was introduced in the US Senate in July 2021 and the US House in October 2021. The legislation would expand Medicare benefits for home healthcare services. The law would also provide for more remote patient monitoring and telehealth nursing services for seniors. Seniors, on release from a hospital, could decide to return to their homes instead of staying in a skilled nursing facility.

Home healthcare professionals are “calling for greater standardization.” These standards include:

  • Making license requirements uniform across state lanes. This would help make “applications at the federal level” easier.
  • Standard onboarding and vetting procedures. These procedures would include background checks, inquiries about a health professional’s experience, social security verification, and certification checks.

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A shift in care models

Anne Dabrow Woods, chief nurse at Wolters Kluwer Health, anticipates a necessary shift in how nursing care models are applied due to COVID-19.” As an example, the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System used a strong nursing care model during the pandemic that focuses on

  • The method of delivery
  • The nurses’ skills at the hospital unit.

Ms. Woods states that the model for healthcare must shift from traditional nurse-to-patient staffing models to a model that is more adept at handling a crisis. The model needs to be more flexible to help patients get the care they need. She adds that staffing must be based on the level of care and staff competency. She suggests that a crisis management model be “team-based” with more floating nurses.

A crisis management model would enable hospitals to respond to future health emergencies and to staffing shortages – such as nurses are dealing with due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual simulation and other technologies will improve nursing school education

New software and hardware will help by improving online learning. Online learning has been and will be a valuable tool for addressing worldwide nursing shortages. The new technology helps by eliminating the need for physical training sites. COVID-19 directly affected nursing education nationwide. Many colleges and universities shifted to online so nursing students could learn from home where the nurses wouldn’t be exposed to other people who might have the disease.

The National League for Nursing worked with Laerdal Medical and Wolters Kluwer Health to develop vSim. vSim is a virtual simulation nursing program. The software includes helpful questions and interactive scenarios. Ms. Woods thinks that vSim (and programs like it) can help nursing students prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination. She also thinks the software simulation can help nursing students practice clinical decision-making and expose the users of the program to different practice settings and a broad diversity of patients.

The well-being of the health care staff will be a major priority

Earl Dalton, Health Carousel’s chief nursing officer thinks the mental heal of nurses and healthcare workers will be a 2022 priority. Health Carousel is a workforce management solution company. The pandemic, Dalton says, has made clear just how critical it is to focus on the mental health of the nurses.

Mental health needs to be a priority, Dalton says, because the nursing shortage is partially due to mental health problems such as stress, burnout, and traumatic encounters. Hospitals, medical practices, and organizations that employ nurses will need to focus on the mental health of nurses as well as nurses’ physical health.

The possible solutions to the mental health problems that nurses suffer will differ depending on where the nurses are working. Organizations will need to foster a healthy work environment so nurses can help these hospitals, practices, and organizations complete serve their patients.

Resilience and the mental health of nurses

“Resilience is the ability to face adversity while remaining focused and optimistic for the future.” The healthcare profession will need to cultivate resilience to protect the safety of the patients and to combat nursing burnout. The promotion of resilience was a strategy long before the pandemic. A strategy of resilience helps nurses recover and recuperate faster. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for resilience planning because most nurses are “exhausted, morally injured, and burnt out.” Ms. Woods states that many nurses are considering leaving the profession, due to COVID-19, earlier than nurses usually think about leaving.

Organizations in 2022 will need to focus on a safe work environment. Healthcare organizations will also need to develop models “based on patient’s care level and workforce competencies.”

The unwanted side effects of the nursing shortage

The global nursing shortage impacts both patient care and the healthcare systems themselves. Mr. Dalton thinks that the nursing shortage could cause a bidding war for additional nursing staff which would lead to an increase in wages for new contingency nurses. In 2020, the need for traveling nurses rose. Hospitals are already increasing temporary staff pay and benefits to fulfill their nursing needs. Dalton adds that, “Qualified resources and strong relationships will be crucial for meeting hospitals’ needs at this time.”

Short-term solutions to the nursing shortfall are likely to affect the quality of patient care

Mr. Dalton believes that short-term solutions to any “post-pandemic,” nursing shortfall will impact patient care due to what he calls the “experience-complexity gap.” The experience-complexity gap means that hospitals, medical practices, and other healthcare organizations will often need to rely on healthcare workers who are not properly skilled or who are lacking in the experience necessary to properly provide for the needs of the patients.

As an example, as baby boomers reach retirement age, more seniors will need nursing care to treat complex conditions. Hospitals will need to find ways to respond to the challenge of fewer and fewer qualified nurses for the increasing demand for nursing services. Hospitals will need to ensure that all new nurses have the proper education and training. Hospitals will also need to staff nurses with more experience across each unit in the hospital.

Better training and better leadership models will be needed to address these challenges so patient care and staff well-being aren’t affected.

An increase in demand for training and higher education

Even though hospitals and medical practices should expect nursing shortfalls, these organizations will continue to need to ensure their staff has the training and education the staff needs – including continuing education. Dalton states that the training for each nursing role is simply not negotiable. Training and education of permanent employees, short-term nurses, and travel nurses is an essential component to competent and quality medical care.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses “promotes the preference for nurses who hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). About 82% of employers express a strong preference for these nurses.” Setting high standards for nursing training, education, and motivation can lead to better incomes.

Online education programs will become more popular

Professionals are predicting that online nursing programs and programs the bridge from RN degrees to BSN degrees will become more popular. These online programs were used during the pandemic and are expected to continue when the pandemic ends.

There is even some research that suggests that learning online may “increase the retention of information.” There is some data that shows that learning online takes less time. Online learning is less costly for colleges and universities. Many healthcare educational institutes have already invested in online learning software, videoconferencing, virtual tutoring, and other forms of educational technology.

Tech trends for the nursing profession

A few technical trends, according to Health Tech Magazine, to look for include the following:

  • Continued expansion of telehealth visits. This service isn’t just for rural locations. Many people who become ill or injured after hours, when medical practices are closed, will use telehealth. Telehealth will be in high demand as long as the pandemic continues.
  • Electronic record-keeping, mobile health apps, and analytic software will work together to integrate information for physician review.
  • Nurses will take a greater role in technology. According to Bobbie Berkowitz, dean emerita at the Columbia University School of Nursing, nurses will work as “as intermediaries for artificial intelligence deployments.”

“Regulators are emphasizing healthcare transparency and interoperability, and nurses will continue to play an important role in gathering and applying data in clinical workflows.”

New nursing roles include chief nursing officer and chief nursing informatics officer. These roles combine the clinical and technical aspects of nursing. For example, one chief nursing officer for Humana said, “We were able to incorporate the clinical knowledge of nurses, social workers, behavioral health associates, and pharmacists — and through an interdisciplinary approach to care along with our analytics, focus on identifying barriers and closing gaps.”

  • More reliance on streamlined user interfaces. One company, Zero, seeks to reduce screen time fatigue by using human gestures “such as vision or voice prompts” for interactions. Another company is using natural language processing tools to minimize user interface interactions. Other companies are working on creating virtual assistants for the nursing profession.

New changes in the nursing profession, whether the changes are due to new methodologies to address nursing shortfalls or new technologies to make life easier for nurses, must be reviewed by an experienced healthcare compliance lawyer. There are many laws that govern:

  • The unauthorized practice of medicine
  • Referrals between physicians and companies developing new technologies
  • State telemedicine laws
  • Other federal and state laws.

Nurses and doctors also need to understand the medical rules that govern their profession. The needs of the patient must always come first.

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Nurses and the hospitals and medical practices that hire nurses should contact Cohen Healthcare Law Group, PC to discuss their compliance requirements. Our experienced healthcare attorneys help nurses, healthcare organizations, and technology companies understand the laws and rules that govern their medical care.

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