Working to Improve the Workforce
Here in the heart of the nation’s capital, you can overhear conversations about the gaps in health care everywhere you go. People are abuzz on the Hill, at the headquarters of the many health and nursing organizations that call D.C. home, on the Metro and in the streets. As educators and researchers, it is essential to stop and ask ourselves how nursing can make the most significant impact on health care and change the landscape as we know it. With most things, we often have to go back to the beginning, specifically education. As a nurse educator, I am often asked by hospital leaders, health care organizations, politicians and peers what can be done to address the nation’s growing health workforce needs.
At the George Washington University, we start by attracting students with a well-rounded perspective of the world, grounded in skills that can be transferred to our profession. One such example is our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) veterans option. Each year, veterans transition from the military to rejoin a civilian workforce. Many of these remarkable individuals come with military training related to health. Why not let them continue to serve by working for an industry in need of providers that could benefit from their commitment? These are the types of win-win scenarios the profession needs.
Once students are in the classroom, they need the guidance of expert faculty and a unique curriculum crafted for the opportunities this wonderful profession provides. Access to state-of-the-art facilities is also essential, as simulation is vital to teaching skills that can sometimes be missed in clinical experience. At GW Nursing, we doubled our own simulation footprint this summer.
It doesn’t stop there. Our institutions of higher education have a duty to augment a health care workforce in need, particularly with remote-area medical missions and global trips to developing countries. These experiences also teach students the value of contributing to causes greater than themselves.
Finally, we can’t keep all of this to ourselves. We need to ensure our peers, hospital leaders, the media, our nation’s top government officials and the world know that nursing has a voice, and it’s time to be heard. This year, GW Nursing’s Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement released the Woodhull Study Revisited, which found nurses to still be underrepresented as sources in health stories in the media despite the passing of 20 years since the original study. We can’t change health care or address the workforce in silence. I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with this important study and its recommendations.
In the end, it all comes back to how we as educators can support a workforce in need. This is a remarkable time to be in health care and the nation’s capital. It’s a remarkable time to be a nurse. It’s going to take work, but we’re committed. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together.
— Dean Pamela Jeffries