The Future of Nursing: A paradigm shifting moment

 In Nurses Weekly

There is much innovation literature that describes the reasons that industries and markets transform over time. One of the catalysts of dramatic change in industries when they experience unthinkable events. The COVID-19 pandemic fits squarely into the unthinkable events category and has highlighted both the fractures in our healthcare system and the opportunities to make it better.  Specifically, nursing is at a paradigm-shifting moment and we as a profession have a choice to double down on the past or catalyze ourselves into the future.

Cracks in the system

The storied historic failure of the video rental company Blockbuster provides an analogous path for nursing to learn from. In short, Blockbuster refused to evolve its business in the face of changing technology and consumer demand and ultimately doubled down on the past practices that led to their initial success.  Meanwhile, a new entrant into the video industry, Netflix, was actively improving on every aspect of the broken Blockbuster model. No late fees, mail order videos, and future-focused technology creation ultimately led to the emergence of the entertainment staple we know today.

Likewise, nursing is at a similar moment.  Our work as a profession has hinged on older education models, manual tasks, and 12-hour shifts, all of which have new evidence showing ways we can improve.  Meanwhile, the healthcare system is being dramatically disrupted by new entrants like Amazon Care, Apple, and Google who have an eye for change, a competency in technology, and a mission to deliver cost-effective value to consumers. The legacy practices of traditional healthcare players will soon no longer be relevant.  This perfect storm offers an amazing opportunity for nursing to leap into the future.

Getting Disrupted

With all of this disruption comes opportunity. When groups are disrupted the barrier to change is often lowered and there is little choice but to adapt to the changing conditions. Think about all of the practices we held close for decades that were changed in an instant due to the pandemic. Whether that was then number of approvals needed to execute a change, the way we distributed clinical nursing talent in new ways, or the rapid creation of innovations to keep ourselves and our patients safe. Nurses delivered quality care and adapted faster than any other time in history. And now we face a choice, we can keep the good changes and adaptations or go the way of blockbuster and quickly revert our profession back to the way it was.

Where do we go

As nurses we should be embracing this disruption and change, using it to build the future we desire as a profession. Here are a few opportunities for the profession to emerge stronger, better, and more future-focused.

  • Embrace technology – The future of healthcare will be heavily driven by technology-enhanced care. To date, nursing is no at the right tables to advocate and inform these solutions. Lets get to the table.
  • Revolutionize Education – Poster boards and lectures are still the predominant teaching methods for all levels of nursing. We need to adopt virtual reality, team-based learning, and interprofessional foundations to build the nursing workforce of the future.
  • Embrace the changing workforce – Nurses entering our profession now do not hold the same values are before. They value flexibility, autonomy, and support over brand loyalty, pensions, and years of service. Let’s work to embrace the new concepts of work to support the continued evolution of our profession.

As nurses, we have shown throughout history that our profession can rise to the occasion and adapt to the patients changing needs. This moment, post-pandemic, is another paradigm-shifting moment for nursing and I hope that we choose the Netflix path instead of going the way of Blockbuster.

  • Dan Weberg, RN, PhD, MHI, BSN

(This story originally appeared on ANA’s Nursing World.)

24/7 Crisis Hotline for Impaired Nurses - 1-800-662-0108