We’re going through a period of rapid change in the healthcare industry. Due to reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, as well as new Medicare policies and changing models of care, nurses are being asked to play an even greater role in quality improvement, cost containment, and patient safety. So how can you keep up? It’s likely that education can help, whether your next step is a BSN, MSN, or DNP degree. Below, we’ve outlined some of the industry trends affecting nurses today and explained how education can help you not only adapt, but thrive.
- More regulation and oversight. At every level, the industry is being asked to take more accountability for value-based outcomes. Consider the new Medicare initiatives that measure rates of hospital-acquired infections, patient satisfaction, and unnecessary readmissions – and then link them to reimbursement policies. As a result, nurses are expected to work more autonomously and apply critical thinking skills to nursing practice, for example to reduce the incidence of catheter-associated urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Going back to school at any level can help you expand your knowledge and hone your ability to think critically.
- The tech explosion. Information technology is changing everything from the way we provide care (telenursing, remote patient monitoring) to the way we document care (the electronic medical record, or EMR). As a result, today’s nursing curriculums stress technology like never before. If you’re currently a bit intimidated by technology, education can help you become more comfortable with it and understand its impact on care. And if you’re already a tech-savvy nurse, an MSN in nursing informatics can help catapult your career to the next level as you acquire an in-demand specialty.
- A new focus on interdisciplinary practice. New models of team-based care are taking collaboration to a much higher level than we’ve typically seen in the past. But teams that function sub-optimally could put patients at risk from hand-offs and unclear communications, or could lead to waste and unnecessary costs. To participate fully in interdisciplinary teams, nurses will need to demonstrate greater leadership abilities. And one way to do this is to acquire greater educational parity with other providers, who typically have graduate-level education.
- The shift to population-based care. Under the population health management (PHM) mindset, providers (and sometimes payers) will not only coordinate the medical aspects of care, but will address a broader range of factors that can have an impact on health. Nurses will need a sound theoretical framework that includes epidemiology, data analysis, disease management, and behavioral science in order to provide services for defined populations. Again, education can help.
- The growing body of nursing knowledge. Nursing science has come a long way, but how can you tap into this vast repository of information if you don’t know how to read a study or apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations? Research shows that nurses who are educated to at least the BSN level are better able to influence patient outcomes in positive ways.
- A spotlight on key nursing specialties. The trends listed above have created increased demand for nurses with specialized skills in areas that include case management, infection prevention and control, informatics, and geriatric nursing. And increasingly, employers are asking nurses in these fields to obtain an MSN and professional certification. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including an RN-to-BSN program and advanced degree programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, or executive leadership.