With elections less than a month away, healthcare reform continues to be a hot topic. With Democrats working to uphold the current Affordable Care Act and Republicans working towards repealing and replacing reforms, one thing is for certain — healthcare reform will continue to be on the agenda in one form or another regardless of who sits in the White House after Election Day.
The basic goals of healthcare reform are clear: cut costs while improving the quality of care. One fact that’s not debatable is that the current costs and projected cost of healthcare in the U.S. aren’t sustainable.
But what does healthcare reform mean for nurses, who play such a huge role in the patient care process? The answer: nurses will be key leaders in the implementation of healthcare reform, and the demand for their positions will grow, as will the responsibilities of their position.
Nurses will have a large influence on how healthcare reform is actually implemented in everyday patient care. The overall objective of healthcare reform is for hospitals and other providers to provide the highest quality care using best practices and in the most cost effective manner possible. According to Nebraska Methodist College President Dr. Dennis Joslin, that’s where nurses will need to take the lead.
“Nurses will be in the best position to influence the adoption of best practices,” Joslin said. “Nurses will also be in a prime position to implement strategies that will result in decreasing a patient’s length of stay — a critical financial component for providers.”
Wanted: Advanced Degrees
Healthcare reform will ask nurses to improve on their current roles, such as taking measures to improve patients’ overall experience as well as safety. But it will also place new responsibilities on nurses as well. Healthcare reform will shift providers’ focus from only treating patients when they are sick to promoting overall health and wellness.
The focus emphasizes education for patients about health and wellness, so they are healthier and less likely to need hospitalization, and when they do, their stay is as short as possible. The shift will place nurses in a lead role in educating patients about healthier lifestyles and how to effectively manage chronic illness outside of hospital settings.
Healthcare reform also means an increased demand for highly-skilled nurses. The increased roles and responsibilities of the nursing position will create a greater demand for well-educated nurses, especially those prepared for advanced practice with master’s or doctorate degrees.
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Practice Makes Perfect
If you were training to be a pilot, you’d probably want your first take-off to happen in a high-tech flight simulator. In the same way, if you were working to become a firefighter, you would want your first encounter with putting out a fire to be a drill under controlled conditions.
The same is true for being a nurse, and that’s the idea behind Nebraska Methodist College’s Nursing Arts Center. The Nursing Arts Center is set up to simulate hospital, nursing home and clinical settings that nurses may encounter in their careers.
At the heart of the Nursing Arts Center is the Watson family, a set of six high fidelity manikins that simulate a number of scenarios nurses will encounter in the field. The Watson family is named after Jean Watson, an internationally-recognized nurse theorist and nursing professor whose Theory of Human Caring is at the foundation of NMC’s BSN program.
Meet the Family
At first glance, it’s easy for students to see the Watson family isn’t what you might picture when you hear the word “manikin.” They blink and “breathe,” and they can even talk — some in both English and Spanish. But their functions go far beyond that.
Being so lifelike, each member of the Watson family also has a name: Noel, Suzie, Gregg, Hal, Hal Jr. (pictured, right) and Baby Hal. Noel is a birth-simulating manikin, and she can simulate a number of childbirth complications. Baby Hal, the baby she births, can simulate several different types of cries, seizures, color change, dilated pupils, and heart, lung and bowel sounds.
Suzie helps students learn how to check a patient’s blood sugar and how to administer IV fluids, feeding tubes, catheters or assisted breathing. NMC students also use Suzie to learn how to look for breast cancer as well as treat complications due to sexually transmitted diseases. Hal and Gregg are male manikins that simulate many of the functions and scenarios already mentioned, while Hal Jr. simulates a patient who is a younger child. Hal also has drug recognition ability to tell if a student has mixed and administered medicine correctly. The manikins also can simulate CPR as well as defibrillation.
The Watson family and the Nursing Art Center’s simulation rooms provide valuable real world experience. So much so that later this year, doctors and nurses from Methodist Women’s Hospital will be using the simulation rooms to practice birthing scenarios involving the many complications they might encounter during a birth. That says a lot about the level of learning NMC nursing students have access to at the Nursing Arts Center.
Take the Tour
Meet the Watson Family for yourself during one of NMC's Visit Days:
Being a skilled nurse requires more than meets the eye. Nurses are caregivers helping others in their healing processes, and providing that care for another person goes deeper than the many technical skills listed in the job description.
Simply put, Nebraska Methodist College believes it is not enough to provide care for a person without truly caring about the person, and this is where Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring enters in.
Jean Watson is an internationally-recognized nurse theorist and nursing professor. Her Theory of Human Caring is at the foundation of NMC’s BSN program. Freshman nursing students at NMC are introduced to Watson’s theories and teachings in their very first course. From that point on, Watson’s theories are intertwined in each nursing student’s education.
Learn by Doing
Through Watson’s theory, students are taught to care for patients’ all-around wellbeing — their physical health, but also their emotional and spiritual state. According to Nursing Professor Echo Perlman, Watson’s lessons of holistic care are a very important part of what professors teach at NMC’s Nursing Arts Center.
“We do activities within the Nursing Arts Center that aren’t just skills,” Perlman says. “We’ll do activities that teach students how to practice the loving kindness that Watson talks about.”
In NMC’s Nursing Arts Center, students practice their skills on a wide array of life-sized anatomical human models or manikins, appropriately named “The Watson Family.” The students practice interacting with the manikins as if they were caring for real people. Students learn how to comfort their patients by holding their hands or making sure they are covered up. This might seem simple enough, but to a patient it creates a healing environment, which is a crucial part of Watson’s theory. A healing environment is a caring atmosphere that allows a patient to recover and develop to his or her full potential.
Perlman says students are also taught the importance of caring for themselves. In settings such as hospice for instance, nurses deal with death, dying, and grief. According to Watson’s theory, it’s also important for caregivers themselves to recover and heal before taking on the responsibility of caring for others in order to create the best healing environment possible for their patients.
10 Caritas Processes of Watson's Human Theory of Caring:
- Sustaining humanistic-altruistic values by practicing loving-kindness with self and others.
- Being authentically present, enabling faith and hope and honoring others.
- Being sensitive to self and others by cultivating own spiritual practices, beyond ego self to transpersonal self.
- Developing and sustaining loving, trusting-caring relationships.
- Allowing for expression of positive and negative feelings — authentically listening to another person's story.
- Creatively problem-solving through caritas process — full use of self and artistry of caring-healing practices via use of all ways of knowing/being/doing/becoming.
- Engaging in transpersonal teaching and learning within context of caring relationship.
- Creating a healing environment at all levels; subtle environment for energetic authentic caring presence.
- Reverentially assisting with basic needs as sacred acts, touching mind/body/spirit of other; sustaining human dignity.
- Opening to spiritual, mystery, unknowns- allowing for miracles.
For more information about Jean Watson, visit www.watsoncaringscience.org.
It’s no surprise the demand for qualified nurses continues to rise. The country’s baby boomer population is aging, while at the same time, a large portion of the nurse workforce is expected to retire this decade.
The Need for Highly Educated Nurses
But there is also another rising demand among the nursing field — the need for nurses with a bachelor of science degree, commonly known as a BSN. As healthcare in the U.S. continues to become more complex and diverse, nurses with BSNs are needed to take on leadership and managerial roles in the field. Nurses need to be capable of assuming more leadership and management roles to prevent disease, promote health, and provide primary care to individuals, communities and other populations.
The RN-to-BSN online program at NMC is the first step for qualified nurses who want to advance their education and be on the forefront of healthcare improvement.
Do I REALLY need an advanced nursing degree?
In short, the answer is yes. According to a recent article from the New York Times, surveys show that most hospitals prefer to hire nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Many hospitals have either made it their policy only to hire nurses with at least a BSN, or to hire nurses with the agreement that they will earn a BSN within a certain amount of time.
Several states are even looking at bills that would require hospitals to have a certain percentage of BSN-educated nurses on staff. As part of this shift, many hospitals are also phasing out licensed practical nurses (LPNs) all together.
According to the Association of Colleges of Nursing, all Magnet hospitals, which are recognized for nursing excellence, have moved to require all nurse managers and nurse leaders to hold a baccalaureate or graduate degree in nursing by 2013. Applying for Magnet designation must also show what plans are in place to achieve the recommendation of having an 80% baccalaureate prepared RN workforce by 2020.
So, then what's next?
That’s important to know whether you are at the beginning of your nursing career path or already somewhere along the way. If you are exploring a career in nursing, it’s important that you enter the field with the educational preparation and degree that will allow you to be successful in the long run. If you are currently an LPN or a registered nurse (RN) without a BSN, don’t panic. There are plenty of educational options to suit you as you grow in your career.
Nebraska Methodist College offers several BSN programs on campus and online. For RNs looking to improve their skills and qualifications, NMC offers these online programs: RN to BSN; RN to MSN (master of science in nursing), educator; and RN to MSN, executive.
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Nebraska Methodist College student, Jed Hansen was selected as a winner for the New Careers In Nursing (NCIN) I Believe this About Nursing essay contest for the month of June, 2012.
As a Robert Wood Foundation scholar, Jed submitted an essay that shared his personal story about why he wants to become a nurse, what he has learned, who has inspired him or what he wants to contribute to the profession.
Hansen, 31 years old, previously worked in the financial industry in New York. He graduated with a business degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and immediately began his career in finance but soon felt driven to healthcare. He will graduate from Nebraska Methodist College in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
An Excerpt from Jed's Essay
"Unlike many nurses and fellow students, when deciding on a career in healthcare I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I took a systematic look at several different career paths and educational routes, making sure I was going to enter into a career that made sense for where I was in my life and where I wanted to go. I was looking for a career that offered personal flexibility and autonomy, a career that allowed me to help others, and a career that offered various professional routes. After diligent research, I found that nursing was the certain path that would offer me all of these career traits."
His winning essay can be viewed on the NCIN website.
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