By Devin Morrissey
The healthcare industry went through some tough transitions this year with various policy, consumer and financial changes that followed the incoming of a new federal administration. With those changes came necessary adjustments to healthcare practices nationwide. 2018 will bring with it even more change as we settle into new federal policies and learn the importance of further inclusion in the healthcare field.
Healthcare has always been disproportionate in terms of the quality and quantity of nursing and medical staff available to patients in various areas of the world — and this is not a surprise. Large cities have always attracted more talented populations because of increased opportunity for financial security, job security and job variety, and this is very clear in hospitals and doctors offices across the country. What makes this more problematic is the fact that little seems to be getting done to support patients in rural areas or cities with high populations of low-income families.
Obstacles to Nurse Staffing
Registered nurses are popping up out of college everywhere. Nursing is a growing field that doesn’t show many signs of slowing down. With the advancements in technology and the financial security that comes with healthcare careers, it is no shock that people are highly interested in joining this field. The difficulty here, however, is finding nursing staff that is readily available to live in poor cities and highly rural communities.
There isn’t much intrigue there. So what keeps happening to folks who live in these under-populated cities where healthcare is not at its peak is they end up having to travel, sometimes quite far, to seek medical help. And in the event of an emergency, this is not a very attractive or safe option. Registered nurses are readily available in large cities, but when you step foot into more isolated towns, they tend to dwindle.
There isn’t much benefit for the actual nurses either. Because of the understaffed nature of the medical facilities in rural areas, nurses tend to work longer shifts to make up for the lack of professionals for incoming patients. Nurses then have to find ways to balance their work and life in ways that city nurses may not have to.
This begs the question: What can we do to make working in the healthcare field in a rural location more attractive to registered nurses? There may not be one correct answer, but there are certainly various changes the healthcare industry can make in 2018 to make this idea seem more plausible.
Improvements to Rural Hospitals
If you haven’t stepped foot in rural location in a while, you may not be familiar with some of the conditions that exist in these areas. For example, the hospitals themselves tend to be very old, with few machines that can be considered modern technology. Patients living in rural areas often have to travel to big cities for procedures as standard as an MRI.
There is also less financial security offered in rural locations because of the lack of funding for these hospitals. Nurses here tend to work longer hours and make less pay. The lack of tempting offers these cities bring then leads to potentially less-competent staff members– and this doesn’t just refer to their education or their medical background.
It refers to their level of cultural competence. Rural areas typically have larger populations of low-income individuals as opposed to large cities that tend to be rather diverse and successful. Not to mention the cultural variety you get as you move through different regions in the country i.e. the southwest which is predominantly hispanic, the south which is predominantly african american and the north which is predominantly white.
Generally, individuals from low-income areas don’t get as quality treatment as residents of high-income communities making this lack of diversity in the community evident in the nursing staff as well. Nurses find themselves overworked and underpaid much of the time. Cultural competency is necessary in the medical field, especially if you work in a position that demands so much face-to-face time with patients, like nursing.
There must be a noticeable shift in the quality of healthcare in rural areas in the coming year. Without annual advancement taking place, the healthcare industry will fall behind the required standards of essential healthcare for all people, no matter their socioeconomic status.
Future Successes to Come
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. The future holds many intriguing innovations, especially for the healthcare industry. There are so many advancements that have yet to be made, but are extremely close to finding success, like engineering, prosthetics, wheelchair technology and cancer research.
This can be true for staff members as well. The healthcare industry can make the shift toward a more equitable and inclusive environment by creating a balanced work experience between senior management staff and incoming nursing managers, by taking advantage of technological upgrades and by being aware of the benefits of diverse work conditions, both to employment staff and consumers or patients.
As the healthcare industry continues to grow, expand and innovate, the need for progressive change and diversity becomes even more necessary in the pursuit of medical discoveries and healthcare advancement. Without diversity, the quality of work in healthcare will never reach its full potential.
Devin has been a dishwasher, a business owner, and everything in between. He writes from his garage, occasionally rising to experiment on his friends’ cars or do jumping jacks for no reason.