The Case for Nursing Autonomy

Why Nurses Should Have More Authority on the Floor

Nurses don’t always get the respect they deserve. Their opinions usually hold less weight compared to those of a doctor or physician. A nurse may make a medical recommendation, but the patient won’t take them seriously until they hear the same suggestion from a doctor. But nurses often spend more time with patients than doctors. They also tend to have a firm understanding of how the hospital or care center functions. Despite all the expertise that goes into nursing, their opinions often fall on deaf ears. This lack of authority often comes down to how nurses are perceived in the workplace.

Today, we’re making the case for more nursing autonomy. So why is it that nurses don’t always get the respect they deserve and why should healthcare providers listen to what they have to say.

Misconceptions Around Nursing

Patients and healthcare providers alike often have misconceptions about nurses. While some nurses can get by with an associate’s degree, most entry-level nursing jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited four-year university, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With additional training and experience, registered nurses can go onto become nurse practitioners, which have the authority to diagnose and treat various illnesses and conditions using a treatment plan or medication. They can also follow up with patients as they progress with their treatment. While some patients may think that nurses are limited to following orders, that’s not always the case.

Nurses can also go onto earn a master’s degree in nursing (MSD) or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), which only adds to their expertise. In fact, 13% of registered nurses currently hold a master’s degree. Nurses can have a wide range of experiences and education under their belt, but they’re still largely left out of the conversation when it comes to healthcare administration. In community health systems, only 2.3% of institution and hospital board seats are occupied by nurses, while 22.6% are occupied by physicians. Clearly, nurses need more representation in the board room, considering nurses currently make up the largest group of healthcare workers.

Why Nursing Autonomy Is Important

  • Looking at the Whole Picture

While doctors often have more education and specialized training than nurses, they play a much different role in most healthcare systems. Most doctors spend an average of 13 – 16 minutes with each patient, while nurses spend around 40 minutes with each patient, according to a recent study by the University of Pittsburg Medical Center.

Primary care physicians are less common today than they used to be, as doctors continue to specialize in a particular aspect of care. This means a doctor will likely treat a patient for one condition or illness without looking at the whole picture. But nurses will often treat the whole patient as specialists come and go. They have the time and resources to look after and monitor patients as their condition changes over time. Nurses can bring a lot of insight to the table when caring for patients, even if their doctor isn’t always interested in hearing what they have to say.

  • Better Patient Outcomes

Studies show that hospitals and care centers with strong, professional nursing practicing environments have lower 30-day death rates. This usually means nurses have the authority to make clinical decisions on their own, which allows them to respond to a patient’s needs in real-time. Without this autonomy, nurses will have to wait for physician approval, which can delay care and worsen a patient’s condition.

  • Less Employee Turnover

Helping nurses feel empowered on the job can lead to lower employee turnover. The U.S. is in the middle of a nursing shortage and some hospitals and care centers need to do everything they can to keep the staff they have, considering the average cost of turnover for a nurse ranges from $37,700 to $58,400. With limited budgets and rising patient demand, giving nurses more authority on the floor can reduce recruitment costs.

Nursing autonomy can benefit patients and healthcare centers alike. Nurses will have more say in the workplace, helping doctors and physicians make more informed decisions regarding intuitional efficiency and the quality of care their patients receive. This also lowers recruitment costs for healthcare centers, so they can put their resources to better use. Use these findings to make the case for more nursing autonomy.

Sources: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-1

https://nursejournal.org/articles/the-future-of-nursing-infographic/

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ocwage.pdf

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-long-is-average-doctors-visit-2016-4

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217062/

https://rnbsnonline.unm.edu/articles/high-cost-of-nurse-turnover.aspx

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