President's Column: The Future of Nursing Starts Now

Jan 04, 2022

Added to Collection

For years, nurses have reported struggles with burnout, moral distress and compassion fatigue. As we look ahead, we have a framework for a path forward in 2022.

The new year is a time of reflection. We look back on where we’ve been and envision the coming year.

Pre-pandemic, the nursing profession experienced labor shortages, which we anticipated would worsen as more baby boomers retire. A workforce newer to critical care and increasing patient complexity also would mean a wider gap between nurses’ depth of experience and patients’ complex needs.

For years, nurses have reported struggles with burnout, moral distress and compassion fatigue. Awareness of how race, ethnicity and social determinants of health — including socioeconomic status, area of residence, employment, access to healthcare — has an impact on health disparities and patient outcomes.

Today, our experience responding to the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated and amplified these trends I’ve mentioned. We’re also experiencing the differences in how COVID has impacted minority and other marginalized groups, who have significantly higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death from this pandemic.

The National Academy of Medicine's "The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity" provides a framework to address many of the issues laid bare by the pandemic that affect nursing.

The report provides nine broad recommendations. Some prioritize nurse health and well-being; others address workforce challenges, advocate for nursing practice to the full extent of training and scope of practice, strengthen education, design better payment models, and bolster and protect the nursing workforce for future public health emergencies. The recommendations aim to achieve health equity through stronger nurse capacity and expertise, underscoring nurses’ crucial role in healthcare delivery. The report emphasizes the fundamental importance of healthy work environments as the foundation for nurses to lead these efforts.

The “Future of Nursing” report has admirable aims, which are complex and will demand considerable time and energy to achieve. As a first step, we can pinpoint which recommendations we can influence both as individuals and as a community of acute and critical care nurses.

The report’s focus on strengthening nurse capacity, well-being and expertise has never been more relevant, as the continuing pandemic erodes nurse well-being and workforce stability. These are foundational elements for us to lead powerfully into the future.

I look forward to 2022, knowing we have a lot of work to do.

We must continue to elevate our voice as advocates for our community.

We must continue to model true collaboration that addresses the monumental staffing challenges and workforce trends.

We must continue to ensure nurses are heard and supported, and help make our well-being is a priority.

Ours is heavy, important work. Yet I’m optimistic. Optimistic because of our unparalleled opportunity for transformational change. Nurses are being seen and, when we nurses use our powerful voices intentionally, we will be heard. I have never been more proud to be a nurse. Our strength and compassion throughout this pandemic have been remarkable and inspiring. Our firm roots allow our influence to grow. Let’s seize the opportunity to make sure the healthcare system of the future is remarkably better. “The Future of Nursing” report provides the blueprint to make this happen.

Nurses have what it takes to chart the path toward an equitable future in healthcare, one in which we are valued as the leaders we are.

The future of nursing starts now — with each of us. What commitment will you make to lead us toward our preferred future? Write to me at