5 Ways Registered Nurses Are Changing Modern Medicine

nurseToday’s health care system is changing rapidly. The recent changes resulting from nationwide hospital staff shortages, health care reform and the rise of epidemics such as obesity and diabetes have all led to evolving roles for both nurses and doctors. Nurses have always been vital to the daily operations and overall success of health care facilities, and today’s nurses are using their nursing degrees to make positive changes in modern medicine. Here are five exciting and important roles nurses are beginning to play in the dynamic and ever-changing health care environment.

Conducting Research
The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2010 outlining the ways in which nurses must be fully used to improve our health care system. To make the most of the many talents nurses possess, the report recommends giving nurses more opportunities for conducting research. Nurses make ideal researchers for many reasons. Their hands-on experiences with medicine and health care give them credibility and a perspective other researchers lack. This means nurses not only have firsthand knowledge regarding health care issues, they also know which questions to ask, what areas need further research, and possible solutions. Nurses also have the capacity to see research studies through from beginning to end. They can spot issues early on in clinical trials and are more than qualified to handle key components of studies, to include patient education, clinical procedures, and data collection.

Advocating for Policy Reform
In many ways, nurses are in the trenches of the health care system, witnessing firsthand the complex problems and flawed policies that contribute to a less-than-perfect structure. Nurses have a unique opportunity to see the specific ways that certain laws and regulations are affecting patients. With the health care system switching to a more patient-centered approach, nurses are invaluable in identifying how certain policies may ó or may not ó be meeting patient’s needs. Nurses have long been advocates for health care reform. Florence Nightingale paved the way by strongly advocating for improved hospital hygiene and a more educated nursing staff. Today’s changing health care environment is creating more avenues for nurses to advocate for policy reform. According to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, the recent explosion of health care technologies has changed nursing drastically, providing more opportunities for policy research.

Creating New Health Care Technologies
While technological advances have certainly done a great deal to improve the quality and efficiency of health care services, there is always room for improvement. The top nursing schools are beginning to understand nurses have valuable perspectives when it comes to creating new technologies. This has inspired a new collaboration between nursing researchers and technologists. The recent shift in focus to patient-centered care has made it clear nurses hold many of the answers when it comes to technological tools that may help health care facilities to better meet the diverse needs of their patients. As a result, scientists from corporations such as General Electric are teaming up with nursing researchers and educators to bridge the gap between technological knowledge and awareness of health care issues. These collaborations have resulted in the testing of new technologies such as videoconferencing yoga classes for cardiac patients and mobile phone applications that assist oncology patients with managing their symptoms.

Educating Patients
With nurses being constantly pulled in many directions, patient education has taken a back seat to other issues. Health education plays a vital role in the overall health and wellness of our citizens. In fact, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine reports health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than factors such as age, income and race.

For this reason, health care facilities are taking a more proactive approach when it comes to patient education, placing nurses at the forefront. Many health care facilities are replacing the outdated method of handing patients pamphlets to educate them with patient-specific outreach. Technology is making it possible for nurses to find the best videos and literature to share with their patients. Additionally, nurses are taking a personal and hands-on approach by following up with their patients through meetings and feedback sessions.

Working for Health Insurance Reform
Every day, nurses witness the health risks that come from people not being able to afford medical treatment. While health care reform has addressed some of these issues, nurses have become motivated to help make health insurance more affordable and patient-friendly. Nurses are increasingly responsible for conducting insurance coverage reviews, educating patients on insurance options, and fielding phone calls for insurance hotlines. Additionally, organizations such as the American Nurses Association are making strides in health insurance reform through grassroots organizing and research.

Nurses are playing an increasingly vital role in making the positive changes necessary to create a better health care system in America. This is an exciting time for current and aspiring nurses to make advantage of the full scope of their education, skills and talents.