Nursing migration has been a topic of discussion for more than a decade and still we continue to be plagued by a shortage of human resources in that profession, globally. In March this year, the World Health Organization indicated that “approximately 27 million men and women make up the global nursing and midwifery workforce. This accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the global health workforce. There is a global shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and midwives, who represent more than 50 per cent of the current shortage in health workers”.
While this global nursing shortage was a well-recognised fact prior to 2022, the introduction of COVID-19 has made the situation worse, with the International Nursing Council (ICN) reporting that the pandemic has increased workplace hazards, including burnout, stress, violent attacks, infections, and mental-health issues.
A survey done by the ICN in December 2020 revealed that nearly 90 per cent of nurses who participated agreed that nurses were leaving the profession for these reasons as well as insufficient resources. – International Council of Nurses Policy Brief: The Global Nursing Shortage and Nurse Retention.
Our situation is exacerbated by the fact that recruiters often seek Jamaican nursing talent as our medical professionals are known to be among the best in the world. The Government tries to find ways to address this through training while also opting to recruit nurses from other countries such as Cuba to fill the ever-expanding gap. Still, we have never been able to fill the gaps as it is difficult to compete with the kinds of salaries offered in more developed countries.
Given these challenges, we must look to using the technology to complement our efforts.
The use of telemedicine has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, and some persons have opted to continue with a combination of in-person visits and virtual consultations wherever applicable. This should be encouraged in both the public and private sectors, and other healthcare workers, outside of doctors should be incorporated into its use.
This would not only alleviate burnout of nurses, but caregivers as a group. In the same way that remote work has become more popularised in various industries after seeing the resultant benefits during the pandemic, I believe that remote healthcare work can equally be beneficial for all parties in the health sector.
VIRTUAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT BEYOND
Creating a virtual working environment beyond just telemedicine can be another way in which we can address the issues using technology. Imagine being able to virtually triage and check a patient then having them see a specialist if needed without a physical visit? That is all possible with connected health via the use of remote-care devices. The technology has evolved in such a way as to allow for the ability to care for and monitor a patient from virtually any location. A nurse could triage a patient in as little as two minutes; a doctor could see several more patients per day without increasing fatigue and burnout while saving on travel time. The devices would allow for monitoring of various health metrics and would be ideal for most outpatient services especially for persons who require at-home care and monitoring, including after surgery.
I believe that while we seek to find other methods of retaining our nurses, we can use technology to improve their work environment and alleviate some of the daily burdens they face with the increasing number of persons being admitted to hospitals. Virtual care gives nurses increased options with respect to location from which they can work, shifts, and work styles. There could be a combination of methods that would enable nurses to serve more than one facility.
Dr Shayan Vyas, senior vice-president and medical director for hospitals and health systems at Teladoc Health, said based on his experience, “overall, the benefits of virtual nursing include staffing flexibility, potential retention and recruitment advantages, the ability to leverage staff resources, and favorable nurse and patient satisfaction. Another major benefit of virtual nursing is a reduced length of stay, resulting in improved throughput as well as time saved in the discharge process.” - www.healthcareitnews.com
In order to achieve our health goals by 2030, we must incorporate technology in every aspect of healthcare.
Published: Sunday | December 18, 2022 | 1:44 AM