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Empowering Our Nurses

How Nursing Education Advances in the Face of America’s Nursing Shortage

Dr. Beverly Malone

CEO of the National League for Nursing (NLN)

Nurses have never been in greater demand all over the world, yet last year the American Association of Colleges of Nursing predicted that America is on the brink of a nursing shortage.  Dr. Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing (NLN), said that there were two reasons for the shortage: not enough teaching faculty, and not enough clinical placements.

“Nursing is competing with our physician colleagues,” Dr. Malone said. “We’re all trying to get into the hospitals at the same time, and there is just not enough to go around.” The NLN advocates for nurses to receive the best education no matter where nurses are located. One solution to this lack of resources in hospitals is nursing simulation. 

A new simulation

“Simulation has been with us a lot longer than we even realize,” Dr. Malone said, “but we didn’t have the mannequin, we didn’t have the electronics that go with it, the sophistication that goes with it, until recently.” 

When Dr. Malone trained as a nurse, simulation meant injecting salt water into an orange. Thanks to sophisticated mannequins and electronics, simulation today more closely resembles the experience of treating a patient. “From my perspective, having these opportunities is so critically important to delivering quality care,” Dr. Malone said. “If you think about it, when you’re in the hospital and a lovely student comes in, and it’s the first time that he or she has ever done anything invasive, your request is, ‘Please go practice on somebody else or on a mannequin before you do your first one on me.’”

Simulation technology is continuing to progress to account for the diversity of patients that nurses are likely to treat. “They’re continuing to move the level of technology forward in terms of how much the mannequin can give back to you,” Dr. Malone said. “Is it clear that there are mannequins that look like African Americans? Who look older, who look younger?”

Education access

Electronics and robotics are changing not only nursing education but also the work of nursing in hospitals, said Dr. Malone. “Robotics helps to reduce some of the repetitive work that nurses tend to do. Not when I’m talking about the caring, not when I’m talking about the opportunity to sit down with a patient and their family and talk through whatever’s going on, but more like, ‘take those medications down that hall.’”

Online education is helping to make nursing education more accessible. “Online education has really liberated so many of our potential nurses to accessing education,” Dr. Malone said. “They tend to be mostly women with families they have to take care of, whether that’s parents or children or a combination of both, who can’t get out of their neighborhoods.”

The most important element to nursing education, however, is personal relationships and mentoring. “I am a product of mentoring,” Dr. Malone said. “I have been mentored my entire life and if there’s anything great or good about me, it’s because I’ve had incredible mentors. They have taken the time to work with me when I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t see much, but somehow they saw something in me that I didn’t know was there, and that’s what mentoring does.”

It’s the interpersonal communication fostered by mentorship that allows nurses to fully develop, Dr. Malone said. “When you’re a nurse giving care to patients, they deserve to receive the best of you. My opinion is that that only comes through excellent mentoring.”

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