1. Garcia-Dia, Mary Joy DNP, RN, FAAN

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Q A lot of my coworkers struggle with whether they're going to stay in nursing for the long haul. What are some ways that we can keep strong and resilient while ensuring a competent nursing workforce?

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The pandemic has affected the healthcare industry in multiple directions and by varying degrees. For frontline nurses, safety concerns are foremost, not only for their patients, but also for themselves and their own families. In addition to clinical and operational priorities, senior leaders must maintain a balance scorecard between quality and regulatory requirements while ensuring safe staffing levels. Healthcare organizations across the country are offering early retirement options to mitigate projected financial losses due to COVID-19's impact on business and financial operations.


Before the pandemic, research studies showed that healthcare workers experience burnout and compassion fatigue in highly stressful workplace environments. The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 has compounded these issues as frontline workers experience moral injury, increasing the challenge of recruitment and retention faced by healthcare management. I asked Debra A. Toney, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations (NCEMNA), about her thoughts as we anticipate nurses either leaving the profession early or retiring sooner. Dr. Toney observed that the nursing profession has withstood shortages and she has witnessed cycles of short staffing throughout her career. The pandemic has overburdened an already burdened healthcare system, but she believes that the nursing profession and nurses are resilient and nurse leaders will identify innovative ways to keep our workforce strong.


This intelligent optimism from a nurse leader is essential to consider as we go through our new normal. COVID-19 has forced stakeholders in academia and healthcare to reimagine nursing education, clinical training, the onboarding process, certifications, and competency validation. Fostering a culture of resilience through individual-driven activities, such as mindfulness and wellness care centers, may no longer be sustainable to retain highly skilled nurses and practitioners. Because seasoned and novice nurses worked side by side to survive the initial COVID-19 surge, a formal mentorship program with a coach-buddy system may facilitate a partnership that imparts knowledge and clinical skills between seasoned and novice nurses while sharing their lived experience, promoting camaraderie and trust.


The psychological injuries sustained by individuals during the pandemic highlight underlying systemic issues, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. Although the expansion of telehealth to help reduce public exposure and conserve PPE is a temporary fix, the gaps in addressing health equity in underserved communities have become more prominent. The Future of Nursing Campaign for Action promotes a culture of health that requires understanding the influence of social determinants of health on healthcare outcomes. Organizations like the NCEMNA have been on the front line, driving policies to address disparities and ensure that ethnic minority populations have access to culturally appropriate healthcare. Dr. Toney encourages strengthening diversity and inclusion efforts by promoting nursing career opportunities in underrepresented Hispanic, Black, and Asian communities to help close the gaps with the projected nursing shortage.


As the most trusted profession for the past 18 years, nursing needs to reimagine a new virtual and hybrid healthcare delivery system with safety boundaries in place. Collectively, academia, professional organizations, healthcare leaders, and scientists need to join forces to develop a multipronged approach to ensuring the future of nursing and population health. Let us continue to follow the data, maintain public trust, and sustain a unified interprofessional community that supports self-care, mentorship, and public activism.