COVID-19 Ushers in Decades of Change for Nursing Profession
This is a transformational time for the field of nursing. While the pandemic has rearranged nearly every aspect of health care, the impacts on nursing may be the most profound—given that nurses represent 80% of the industry’s workforce, and demand for their skills is at a peak.
“Often nurses are invisible in the discussion of health care, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the indisputable need for nurses,” says Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. It’s become clear, she says, that “nurses provide the bulk of care and assume the brunt of danger that comes with stemming a worldwide health crisis.”
Above all, the pandemic has demanded flexibility. With patient numbers increasing and hospitals strained, many nurses have stepped directly onto the frontlines of the COVID-19 response or shifted to fill other voids the pandemic has created—often working longer, unpredictable hours. In some cases, nurses have crossed state lines to provide care, and retired nurses have returned to action. To maximize their utility, some changes have been necessary at the regulatory level, removing longtime barriers on both the modes and the scope of practice for nurses.
For nurses, the quick adoption of telehealth technology—aided by the easing of federal restrictions on privacy and billing—was a necessary change to serve patients safely and efficiently during COVID-19.
Regulatory barriers have come under the microscope, including laws that dictate the scope of work that advanced practice nurses—those with post-graduate education, including nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists—can perform.
“COVID-19 has brought to light that [empowering nurses] is something that would help patients, help families, and also help the practitioners we’re working with,” said Michelle Patch, a clinical nurse specialist who recently transitioned into a full-time faculty role at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
Patch also believes that COVID-19 has elevated the nursing profession by affirming the essential role nurses play during emergencies, and she’s hopeful to see lasting advances.