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National Health Summit 2023: What big change in nursing policy would make the most positive impact to patient care and work practices?

by | Jan 6, 2023

Healthcare is undergoing fundamental change and facing profound challenges as it continues to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

Sláintecare, Ireland’s high-level 10-year policy roadmap to deliver whole system reform and universal healthcare, is supposed to be halfway through its implementation, but with the pandemic and the loss of key personnel, reforms have been delayed. So, where are we?

The 19th National Health Summit, taking place on February 8 in Croke Park, Dublin, will bring together health leaders to explore the wider opportunities and issues facing the healthcare system, and how these affect staff, patients and communities.

For more >>> healthsummit.ie


Dr. Susan Kent
Associate Professor Nursing, Midwifery, Public & Community Health at Dublin City University and member of the National Screening Advisory Council

With over 35 years of experience in healthcare, Dr Susan Kent offers an extensive viewpoint on policy, strategy and health service design. Her approach is to empower and support nurses, midwives and other professionals in their careers within the context of healthcare systems.

What big change in nursing policy would make the most positive impact to patient care and work practices?

Within an Irish context the most relevant health, nursing and midwifery policies available for the improved provision of healthcare, career development, patient and professional satisfaction are the Sláintecare Strategy and the Graduate to Advanced Nursing Practice.

Whilst the media talk happens around recruitment and retention of healthcare staff, that has pre and post-pandemic persistent challenges, including understaffing, underfunding, and underappreciation. Little coverage surrounds attracting applicants to nurse and midwifery training.

The CAO 2022 first-round nursing and midwifery offers have seen a decrease of student applicants by 27 per cent on last year. Therefore, the attraction to the profession is under threat.

The current undergraduate nursing and midwifery student is classified as Gen Z (born 1997 – 2012) and will be a unique digitally native generation entering the profession. They are known to be pragmatic, individualistic, exhibit a desire for convenience and immediacy, and are cautious and concerned with emotional, physical, and financial safety.

They have distinct differences in how they approach their work life, their needs and values as employees, and their response to different management techniques.

As Baby Boomers and Gen X continue to churn out of the profession, knowing best practices for keeping our experienced nurses and ensuring our newer nurses remain motivated and engaged will become increasingly important for nurse leaders.

The Sláintecare Strategy requires a large nursing workforce to offer patients a contemporary response to meeting needs. Work-life balance is now prioritised within the nursing and midwifery workforce, which can be resolved with the introduction of new ways of working.

A view for future nursing policy is the development of opportunities for nurses to work as private practitioners. This is similar to current payment schemes available for GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, contracted as private practitioners by the HSE and paid for their services.

This is currently being explored and has demonstrated many opportunities and several challenges still to be problem-solved.

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