Nurses will always play a central role in caring for patients. Some nursing responsibilities may remain the same throughout the years. But like many career fields, nursing also changes and evolves. Advances in technology, research, and the needs of society change the way nurses do their job. Some timely topics that may alter a nurse’s job include the following:
The Opioid Crisis
Drug addiction is nothing new. Nurses have been dealing with the effects of drug dependency for decades. But in recent years there has been an increase in the number of people addicted to opioids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the United States, about 115 people die from an opioid overdose every day. From July 2016 to September 2017, 52 areas in 45 states experienced a 30% increase in opioid overdoses.
Reasons for the crisis are complex. In the 1990s, an increase in prescription opioids to treat pain, as well as reassurance from pharmaceutical companies that the medications were not addiction has contributed to the crisis.
The opioid crisis has had an impact on the medical community including nurses. Nurses are increasingly caring for patients with drug dependency and those that have overdosed. Nurses also know narcotic medications can have a role in keeping patients with pain comfortable. It can be a difficult line to walk.
Nurses can also fight the crisis. In some cases, nurses may help patients find alternatives to opioids to manage pain. Educating patients about issues, such as dependency, increased tolerance, and medication side effects is also essential.
Increases in Telemedicine
Telemedicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of patients remotely using various telecommunication technology. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to communicate with patients and staff in real-time.
For nurses, telemedicine may mean consultations with doctors remotely. Instantaneous communication may provide quicker consults and access to a wider range of specialists at all hours. Telemedicine can strengthen the team-based care provided to patients.
Although the in-person interaction between patients and healthcare providers can never be completely replaced, for some patients, telemedicine may provide better access to medical care. Telemedicine is often more convenient and cost-effective for patients, especially for those in rural areas or isolated communities.
Telemedicine is also creating more opportunities for nurses. Nurses are needed to work at call centers and other locations to provide care to patients.
A study by the Association for American Medical Colleges found that by 2030, the United States will have a shortage of between 42,000 and 121,000 doctors. Some areas of the country are already feeling the shortage, especially in primary care and family practice. In some instances, people may have difficulty finding a doctor in their area that accepts their health insurance.
A lack of doctors has a direct impact on nurses. Nurses may find themselves handling more responsibilities that once fell to doctors. The good news is the shortage of physicians creates a greater need for nurse practitioners.
Nursing has evolved throughout the years and will likely continue to do so. What changes impact your work as a nurse?