A perfect storm is brewing in healthcare:
Here’s why nurses should be getting excited
The patients in our hospitals are changing. And there’s a storm on the horizon.
Medical science has found cures for many diseases that plagued our hospitals in the past. There’s no more polio. We’re not in the middle of a World War. Thanks to better awareness and safety standards, we’re seeing fewer accidents in workplaces and from farming and machinery. Vaccinations have all but wiped out childhood illnesses that ravaged previous generations.
At the same time, these advances result in people living longer. And the generation that’s coming into old age now is the Baby Boomers: well, there’s a lot of them. The ‘silver tsunami’ is bearing down on our hospitals. Thirty years ago, wards were full of self-caring 45 year olds recovering from appendicectomies; nowadays your appendicectomy patient is just as likely to be a 98 year old who requires full-time care. And more commonly, we’re seeing people with sicknesses related to affluent lifestyles; our patients are typically overweight, elderly people who are struggling to manage their type 2 diabetes or their heart disease. Their problems just get more and more severe, so as they get older and older, they require more and more care.
This means that the workload for nurses is unbelievably heavy. We’re overworked and disgruntled.
And the average age of a nurse in Australia is 47, which means that in about ten years, we’re going to start retiring.
All this makes for a perfect storm. As our patient load increases, as the healthcare industry grows (it’s predicted that one in five Australians will work in health by 2025) and the current generation of nurses prepares to move on, something will have to give in the nursing sector. Change is coming whether we like it or not. What we can do is decide how to handle it.
It’s daunting, but it’s also really exciting.
Imagine if nurses could use this crisis point as an opportunity to be the change we want to see in the industry. Imagine if we could ride out the storm and re-set nursing the way we want it to be.
Imagine if we could start doing what we’re really great at: working as real partners with allied health, doctors, telehealth, community care, residential aged care to navigate our clients to wellness and independence. Imagine shedding our age-old nursing stereotypes once and for all: angel, handmaiden, naughty nurse, matron. We want to be seen to be more than just angels in white, patting people’s foreheads and changing their bedpans. Imagine if we could be rockstars in our roles.
Imagine if we learned to love nursing again. Imagine if we celebrated the amazing things nurses do every day. Imagine if we got #nursegoals trending.
Imagine if the new generation of nurses stepped up and took control of our destiny.
If we want to see it happen, we’ll need to be empowered in the way we communicate with managers, directors, doctors and others in the industry. Sitting in the tea room complaining to the zippy boiler is not the answer.
I see an opportunity for nurses to take charge of their own industry and transform it. I want to empower nurses to see past the end of the morning shift, and train them in the skills needed to effectively communicate to make change happen.
There’s a perfect storm coming, but it doesn’t have to sweep us away. Nurses get to decide what happens next.
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