The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nursing forever, with many nurses and those who advocate for them hoping the field will transform – using the unprecedented health crisis as a make-or-break moment to press for lasting change.
The pandemic brought about greater burnout and more nurses considering leaving the profession, but it also has the potential to modernize the sector and implement permanent changes to better the work and personal lives of nurses. That is, if the opinions and perspectives of nurses are truly heard.
In mid- 2021, Cross Country Healthcare in partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, conducted a groundbreaking survey, A New Nursing Crisis: How the Pandemic Has Changed Nurses, to measure nurses’ sentiments on various aspects of their profession and experiences prior to, during, and post-pandemic. A total of 570 practicing nurses and students across a range of ages, specialties, and healthcare facilities completed the online survey between May and June 2021.
The findings capture what’s on the minds of today’s nurses, how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered or influenced their state-of-mind regarding their profession, and perhaps most importantly, what they believe needs to change about the healthcare industry overall.
Nurses weighed in on pressing issues, such as:
- The need for better staffing models. Nurses are calling for healthcare leaders to rethink and immediately alter the staffing practices they’ve held onto for decades, including new ways to distribute clinical nursing talent. In fact, 34% of nurses say staffing levels/approaches need to change the most in the future, based on their experience during the pandemic.
- Changes to national licensure. More than a year ago, during the first waves of COVID-19, credentialing presented a significant challenge to fast, expedient delivery of nursing talent that was needed to meet the crisis surge. Nurses have strong opinions about the need for national licensure. For example, 69% of nurses completely agree that national licensure would have greatly benefited the country during the pandemic
- A call for improved cross-training and use of staff resources. Team-based care and collaboration were already in play long before the pandemic, however, nurses say more cross-training and better utilization of resources is still needed. The study found that 85% of nurses agree that healthcare facilities will need to improve cross-training among nurses and other staff to adapt to crisis surge events, and 70% say facilities will need to improve/increase their use of staff resources.
- Needed changes for the future. When asked how nursing and healthcare employers will need to change in the future, nurses point to increasing pay rates/incentives to attract and retain nursing staff (81%) and the increased use of flexible scheduling for nurses (73%) as the top two catalysts for positive change. In addition, 58% said healthcare facilities will need to utilize more per diem and travel nurses to fill staffing gaps.
- The vital skills needed by nurses in the future. Many futurists and scholars point to a growing importance of soft skills even as the future of healthcare becomes more digitized. But what skills did nurses rely on to deliver care in the midst of the pandemic? Respondents to our survey named flexibility/adaptability as the most important skill used while providing care during the pandemic – and the biggest piece of advice offered to nursing students.
In addition to these issues, the survey examines other key trends and perspectives among nurses, such as changing job satisfaction levels, burnout/stress, future career plans, and a special report on the next generation of nurses.
As a career partner to nurses and other healthcare professionals across the country, we continue to advocate and support our valued healthcare providers, including the use of insightful research to capture the advice and insight from those on the front lines to better inform policies and programs that will lead to a better and brighter future for our nurses.
To learn more about what your fellow nurses had to say in the A New Nursing Crisis: How the Pandemic Has Changed Nurses research, download the report HERE.