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Pamela R. Jeffries

  • Pamela R. Jeffries, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH is Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, where she also holds the Valere Potter Distinguished Chair in Nursing.

Nursing is a vocation like no other.

Like most Americans, I was incredibly moved by the images of nurses bravely serving patients with COVID-19, rightly earning the title of healthcare heroes.

As a nurse and nurse educator for over four decades, many of my former students have told me how proud they are of the difference they have made in people’s lives during such a difficult time. This spirit of solidarity between the population, our healthcare system and front-line nurses must continue long after the pandemic is over.

But listen to the news or browse social media and you’ll likely see stories about how hard it is to be a nurse, especially during the pandemic.

There is no doubt that this has been a difficult time for nurses. But focusing only on the hardships – or worse, denigrating nursing as a career choice – is not constructive. Such screeds risk alienating prospective nursing students, reducing workforce morale, and creating negative perceptions of a fulfilling career that is critically important to our society. It also leaves little room for conversations about transformative change.

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So how do you make nurses proud of their profession?

First, it is important to recognize that the challenges nurses talk about are real. Two years of around-the-clock care, pandemic stress and workplace violence are causing many people to burn out. These factors caused many nurses to leave their jobs and the nursing profession. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, the number of unemployed nurses increased by approximately 100,000 RNs, 25,000 LPNs and 90,000 NAs.

According to a recent survey by the American Nurses Foundation, 89% of nurses say their organization is experiencing a staff shortage and less than half of nurses (48%) say they intend to keep their position in the next six months. . Nurses cite lack of staff as the main reason for leaving, and young nurses are driving the exodus.

To address the national nursing shortage, we must address the legitimate concerns of nurses. This means ensuring that nurses are better supported, increasing workforce readiness and reaffirming the value of our profession so that more students choose to enter the field.

In my decades of experience as a nurse educator, I know that to help students achieve their dreams, we must prepare them to excel in a rapidly changing workplace. To improve nursing education and support more students, we must address program capacity challenges, including faculty shortages and limited clinical learning opportunities.

In order to increase capacity, on-screen simulation technologies that promote strong clinical skill and judgment should be fully adopted. While in-person clinical sites are stretched, virtual training opportunities represent a safe, evidence-based alternative. Similarly, coaching-oriented models that provide students with direct patient care scenarios and encourage team-based solutions can facilitate better learning outcomes and prepare graduates to provide safe, evidence-based care. . The more we prepare students to succeed today, the more nurses we will have tomorrow.

The shortage of nurses in the United States is serious, but we cannot hope to fix it until we all adopt a positive and proactive attitude towards our profession and embrace new ideas. Let’s move to a more solution-focused discourse on how to make the transformative changes needed and include the voices critical to solving the challenges – nurses.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that nurses can do anything. Let’s change the conversation and help create an even better future.

Pamela R. Jeffries, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH is Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, where she also holds the Valere Potter Distinguished Chair in Nursing. She is also a member of the ATI advisory board.