By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The U.S. nurse workforce must become larger, more diverse, better educated, and properly resourced over the next decade to adequately handle several looming challenges, according to a new report from the National Academy of Medicine, released in conjunction with National Nurses Week.

The report authors said stronger education programs, more diversity and inclusion, protection of mental well-being, and expanded practice authority are keys to help nurses respond to what lies ahead: caring for a rapidly aging population and responding to the ever-growing number of natural disasters and public health emergencies.

“This is a transformational time for the field of nursing. While the [COVID-19] pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of healthcare, the impacts on nursing may be the most profound, as demand for their skills is at an all-time high,” Mary Wakefield, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report, said in a statement. “Policymakers and health system leaders must seize this moment to strengthen nurse education and training; integrate health equity into nursing practice; and protect nurses’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being so they can provide the best care possible.”
 
Nurses also will be vital in snuffing out structural inequities that cause poor health, according to the report authors. They paid special attention to social determinants of health, nonmedical factors like access to transportation, quality food, and good-paying jobs that affect physical and mental well-being.

“Nurses are often the first to check if patients have enough to eat, if they can afford their medications, whether they need housing assistance, and if they have reliable internet access for telehealth visits. When we invest in nurses, more people and communities will have the opportunity to live their healthiest lives,” David Williams, co-chair of the writing committee, said in a statement. “Nurses interact with all facets of society, from healthcare, to education, public health, and every level of government. They have a crucial role in charting our country’s course for good health and well-being for all.”
 
Recently, the Leapfrog Group, a national healthcare watchdog, added questions regarding billing ethics and health inequity to its 2021 surveys. In the upcoming July issue of Hospital Peer Review, Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder will talk about what that means and what hospitals should be assessing to meet this metric target.