Nurses have been instrumental to the health and wellbeing of people for generations. Midwifery, one of the first nursing positions, is thousands of years old. Despite how old some of the present-day nursing positions are, the role of the modern-day nurse is actually relatively new. Nursing as we know it today has only really been around since the 1960s/1970s when higher levels of education first started to be introduced. Before the 1900s, in fact, nurses only received on-site training and were not formally educated at all. Their work was less informed, their ability to progress was limited. 

Today, that is the furthest thing from the truth. Not only is nursing a thriving career option that can pay more than doctors (especially earlier on in their career, and in comparison, to the cost and time it takes between the two roles), but nurses are also instrumental in stability healthcare and its future. 

The only downside at the moment is the massive nursing shortage and the reluctance to pay nurses their worth unless they leave and relocate. This issue where raises are being pushed back, and the only time to negotiate a higher salary is by changing jobs, is a pervasive issue in every sector. The only difference for nurses currently working in healthcare today is that thanks to the shortage, they have greater negotiation power both at their current work and on the job market. 

Nurses have always played a part in making the world a better place, but in the past, they had to fight to be heard, or alternatively were observed rather than consulted. Today you can make a massive difference for patients everywhere as a nurse and join the many who are stepping up. 

Nurses Have Always Paved the Way for Better Quality Care 

When it comes to the main difference between doctors and nurses, the differentiation is relatively straightforward. Doctors’ main focus is on medicine. Their expertise approaches healthcare from a scientific point of view. Nurses, on the other hand, approach healthcare from a personal point of view. Their work primarily focuses on the patient, their recovery and their ongoing condition. While doctors are there to provide expert levels of knowledge and perform advanced levels of treatment, nurses are there for the rest. 

This difference in approach has meant that nurses have been the ones who had led to revolutionary changes to how healthcare is conducted in the first place. 

One of the most noteworthy changes to healthcare as a whole is the, at the time, revolutionary idea of keeping medical areas sanitary. One of the first people to implement handwashing between patients as mandatory was a Hungarian physician by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis. Where did he get the idea? By observing midwives. 

A very famous nurse, Florence Nightingale, who is by many considered to be the founder of modern nursing, also introduced revolutionary practices that are still being used within healthcare today. This use of evidence-informed practice had at the time 200 years ago when Nightingale practiced as a nurse, had noticed how poor ventilation and unsanitary conditions worsened conditions for injured soldiers. Not only did she lay the foundation for the model of hygiene used today, but she also influenced the layout of hospitals and laid the groundwork for evidence-based practice in nursing. 

There are so many excellent evidence-based practice nursing examples that have changed nursing and healthcare as a whole for the better. By monitoring and using real-world conditions and results to inform and improve practice standards as a whole, patient care and comfort have increased significantly, from ventilator protocols for pneumonia patients to oxygen therapy to how to care for children in inpatient care. 

Nurses have led these changes and made these improvements because they are the ones monitoring how different treatment recommendations play out in real-time. The world is different than the theoretical, and using a combination of clinical expertise and observation, nurses will continue to make improvements to the quality of care for patients everywhere.

Nurses are Filling Shortages 

There are physician and doctor shortages all throughout the country, with millions of Americans living with a lack of access to primary care, much less the specialist care that they need. 

Nurses can, in many situations, provide either the same or around 90% the level of care as physicians can, and the difference between their quality of care is negligible, with many patients expressing equal levels of satisfaction. The 10% difference isn’t found in competency, either, but rather in what each is licensed to do, and some of those tasks depend entirely on the rules of the state the nurse is practicing in. 

For example, NPs with full practice authority can do everything from open their own practice to write prescriptions and send off for testing to be done. NPs with regulated practice authority can do it all except writing prescriptions, and NPs in restricted practice authority states need the sign-off of a physician. 

There are mass shortages all throughout healthcare, including in nursing. More new nurses are needed to prop up healthcare as RNs. More APRNs and NPs need to step up to help offset the physician and doctor shortages that exist throughout the country. 

APRNs and NPs are highly trained and highly educated nurses. They hold either an MSN or a DNP. Doctorate-holding nurses are still in the minority, but with increased pressure on hiring DNPs and more job opportunities and the chance of higher pay, DNP-APRNs are set to help offset the shortages of nurses both within and without the healthcare setting. 

Nurses are Paving the Way forward with Telehealth 

Telehealth was widely adopted during the pandemic and throughout lockdowns with great success. With new investment going into telehealth infrastructure, it is only a matter of time before telehealth doesn’t just become an extra option but the standard operating practice. The ability to have a healthcare consultation or to have your health monitored remotely so that you don’t have to come in regularly to a doctor’s office that may be far away is going to be revolutionary. 

Add in 5G and its ability to connect even remote areas with high-speed internet, and it’s easy to see how great telehealth will be in connecting everyone who needs healthcare with the care they deserve. 

Telehealth is also far more cost-effective, both for those who would have made a visit to their primary care physician and for those who would have gone to a hospital for advice. Telehealth helps patients get the information they need sooner and with far fewer barriers. 

There is one barrier that will still inhibit the adoption of telehealth and telemedicine, and that’s a lack of trained professionals. Though telehealth does make it easier to manage larger caseloads of patients, the sheer accessibility of it also insinuates that more people will start to use the healthcare benefits offered through their insurance. 

It stands to reason that the experts who will be providing these telehealth services will, primarily, be nurses. APRNs and other MSN-holding nurses are set to become the go-to healthcare professionals leading the way for telehealth to thrive. 

Nurses are Expanding Healthcare Options 

The ever-increasing number of nursing options means that patients have greater control and choice in their treatment. One of the most obvious examples of this is with midwifery. Midwifery may have once been the go-to way to give birth for women in the past, but over the last few decades, it has been flipped to hospital care and OB-GYN specialists. 

Tellingly, the fatality rate of mothers in the United States, where this trend is most prevalent, is also the highest. Other countries use midwives to both improve treatment and to provide a more personalized touch. It’s no wonder that with greater access to information thanks to the internet, midwives are seeing a resurgence in the United States. Unlike in the past, however, midwives today are highly trained APRNs who have both practical and advanced degrees in the subject. 

Doctorate-Trained Nurses are Changing Healthcare for the Better 

The highest level of education that a nurse can receive is a doctorate. Currently, less than 2% of all nurses in the United States hold DNP degrees, but those that do not only have greater skills and knowledge in medicine and care but also in leadership and in policy-making. DNP nurses are leading the way forward both directly and indirectly. In fact, DNP-prepared nurses commonly find themselves working in management, administrative, policy-making, and educational roles. 

When it comes to making improvements that affect the greatest number of people, DNP nurses are leading the way. They are trained in evidence-based practice and are taught to transfer what they have uncovered in a leadership setting. 

DNPs are highly advanced professionals whose training takes them beyond caring for patients on a one-on-one basis. Advancing their qualification has prepared them to make sweeping changes for the benefit of all, and with more opportunities and greater numbers of DNP students than ever before, it is apparent that their changes will help nurses step up and will be instrumental in changing healthcare policy and practice for the better.