Diving Into 2024: Challenges and Trends in Nursing

By G Hatfield

2024 is gearing up to be another hectic year for healthcare. With the never-ending stream of new AI technologies on the rise, and the upcoming presidential election, there are sure to be some curveballs thrown at the entire industry, including nursing.

While the impacts of these changes cannot always be predicted, there are many trends that can be.

To get a glimpse at what to expect in nursing this year, we sat down with Lisa Dolan, CNO at Ardent Health Services, to discuss what she thinks are the top five biggest challenges facing CNOs, and the impacts of new technologies and virtual nursing.

What do you predict will be the top 5 biggest challenges in nursing in 2024?

Well, of course, at the top of the list is just the supply of nurses. The demand is far outpacing the supply. So that’ll be a key piece.

Second to that is stabilization of support roles. As nursing becomes more and more taxed, it’s especially important that we have a support team around the nurse. We’re finding it more and more difficult to be competitive in our staffing of support roles. That’s a that’s a key worry and concern as well.

Frontline nursing leaders and being able to retain the nursing leader. That’s a very difficult position, in fact, I always say it’s one of the toughest positions in the hospital. Being able to retain and support those frontline leaders will be key.

And then last but not least is really just burnout in general of the clinical staff. The roles are so difficult at times, and so [having] a healthy work environment for people to feel comfortable and not experience the rate of burnout that they have over the past several years [will be critical].

What can CNOs do to help mitigate those challenges?

Well, probably one of the biggest things is just to create efforts that reenergize their communities and their markets around nursing and healthcare careers in general. I think COVID-19 initially painted healthcare workers in a positive light, and on the heels of COVID-19 we had a lot of people think, “Gosh, I really don’t know that I’d want to do that for a living.” So, really trying to help reenergize the public about healthcare careers and how fulfilling they can be is a key piece and a key role for the CNOs going forward in their communities.

What do you foresee being the next technological trend in nursing next year? How can that technology aid CNOs and their teams?

There’s several that I wanted to make sure that I mentioned. I think virtual care and virtual care platforms are key for our future. Virtual care in nursing can assist with data collection. We can help admit patients, discharge patients, do patient education, family education. There are many things that a virtual nurse can assist a bedside nurse to complete and do, and actually feel like they have more time to spend with the patient. So that’s a key piece.

Additionally, I think virtual provider support, and what I mean by that is bringing specialist to the bedside, and that might be a specialist in nursing, to offer support to maybe a newer nurse, or it could be a certain specialist physician to see a patient. Where those resources might be scarce, it can help bring that provider or that specialist to the bedside much quicker. So that whole virtual platform is going to be a huge benefit to nursing and bedside care in general.

Then we have just that continuous and reliable monitoring that can then feed into systems, which takes me to AI and the future of taking that information and that data and helping to support the clinician to make decisions. [AI] can even add alerts and pick up things quicker to aid the team at the bedside.

So, lots of technologies. There’s also the whole notion of smart rooms, and creating smart room technology that allows you to monitor patient movement within the patient room. You can look for things like patients who are at risk of falling that might be sitting out of bed, or is a patient turning as often as they should, and then driving alerts to the team to help with an intervention if needed.

One really exciting piece is the smart room that can hear and listen, so the opportunity might be there for transcription, or [doing] documentation just by talking through the room and having that assist with my documentation. Or, if I’m in a potential safety situation, then I could say keywords or call for assistance and be able to get help if I needed it in the room.

What do you think the impact of remote patient monitoring and virtual nursing will be?

I think what we’re going to see is significant impact to certain outcomes. I would anticipate that virtual care is going to be able to help us manage our length of stay for patients. It’ll eliminate some delays, possibly, in a specialist coming to the bedside. I think we’ll be able to pick up on patient deterioration much quicker if we’ve got continuous vital sign monitoring.

I think that the assistance it provides will help retain nurses, because it’s going to free their time from doing tasks, [and] maybe they can use that time to spend with patient at the bedside, with emotional support, actually caring and [doing] compassionate activities with a patient, which is going to be very fulfilling for the nurse. That’s typically why nurses go into this career. It frees them up from doing being so task focused and allows them to really take care of activities that are much more fulfilling and provide the patient with support.

How can CNOs help their staff avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Gosh, there’s a lot that can be done. I think one of the initial things is just to be open and talk about burnout and recognize that it’s a real situation. We can do things like having well-being check ins, [or] debriefings after a serious patient event, [and] we can do things creatively to help our staff adjust with key life events. You know, maybe offer support programs that are geared toward new moms or people who are taking care of aging parents.

I think the thing that we forget so often is just to recognize people and celebrate wins. If we have great outcomes, let’s celebrate every opportunity we have, and then make sure that we harvest especially patient feedback to recognize our nurses anytime we can.

Are there any other trends you’re seeing that you think will continue into the new year?

I think we’re going to see continued emphasis on quality and safety measures. That whole focus of pay for performance and meeting all of those key metrics is going to continue to be really important.

I think we’re going to see a transition. I know that at Ardent, we will see a transition from a focus on patient experience in the hospital to almost a consumer experience across the care continuum. So, what is the experience for our patients when they interact with the system? That might be making appointments, it may be their experience when they access their information through their epic chart. Those are all key things.

I think the other piece that we’ll see a lot of is different pilots on care delivery models. Because we know we don’t have enough nurses to support historic approaches, we’ll see people do different team approaches to care. The ability for people to work as a collaborative group and come together and care for a patient, I think it’s going to be key into the future over the next year.

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G Hatfield is the nursing editor for HealthLeaders.