Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in the overall health and well-being of every community. Existing challenges like an aging baby boomer generation, changes in healthcare policy, and innovative advancements supercharge the need for qualified individuals to lead hospitals, handle information systems and apply policy changes.
Moreover, demographic shifts and political party changes have also helped shape the U.S. healthcare system for decades and will continue to do so as the world deals with the effects of the pandemic.
To provide better care, healthcare workers need to be able to adapt and meet new needs. How can you prepare to stay on top of this evolving field?
Making sure that patients receive proper care requires more than just making diagnoses and conducting procedures. Interpersonal communication is also a critical component in all steps of the healthcare process.
Even if you believe you are an introvert, you are going to have to learn to communicate effectively because there is so much at stake. In fact, recent data shows that poor communication has resulted in 1,744 deaths and more than $1.7 billion in malpractice costs.
At a patient-provider level, it is not uncommon for patients to withhold sensitive information like sexual dysfunction and substance use from their healthcare providers. Many times, patients withhold medical information because they feel intimidated and disrespected by the request to disclose this information.
By communicating with a patient on an interpersonal level, healthcare professionals can make patients feel safe enough to communicate openly and honestly. This way, healthcare providers can make an accurate diagnosis and find ways to administer treatment.
Moreover, having strong communication skills can be useful in collaborating with colleagues and teams to ensure successful outcomes.
Communication problems also occur among staff within the same hospital, especially when it comes to scheduling operations and coordinating room changes. When healthcare professionals are not sharing information effectively, it can result in additional expenses and even put patients at risk.
With strong communication skills, you can work effectively with everyone on the team to prevent mismanaged healthcare files and ensure that patients are receiving the most desirable care.
Although there are no hard and fast rules for developing good interpersonal communication skills, there are a few steps you can take to overcome the many barriers to effective health communication. Let’s take a look.
Sit down and listen
Communication is a two-way street. As a healthcare professional, you have to learn how to give your patient the attention they need if you want to build trust.
When you sit down to talk and genuinely listen to the patient, you can quell their anxiety and make them feel cared for. Communication in healthcare becomes easier when healthcare workers ask questions and prepare to listen.
Ask open-ended questions
It is not uncommon for patients to feel uncomfortable voicing their concerns, even after a few hours of empathetic conversation. Therefore, healthcare professionals should ask whether patients have more to say.
For example, you can ask patients some variation of “Is there something else you would want to talk about today?”
This process can enable you to establish a space for patients to reflect and voice concerns they might not have mentioned otherwise while also creating a holistic wellness routine.
Speak in plain language
Most healthcare workers have come to use the industry’s technical or specialized language. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; sharing such insider language allows medical professionals to communicate with each other efficiently.
However, medical terminology is complicated, and this might be problematic for patients who need to know how to use their medications. It is best to avoid using medical jargon whenever possible and depend instead on plain language for communicating with patients.
In unavoidable circumstances where medical jargon has to be used, you should always clearly define the terminology. By speaking in plain language, you can communicate to your patient that you are having a two-way conversation rather than delivering a monologue.
Honest and clear communication between you and the patient creates the opportunity for accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions.
By the same token, effective communication between members of a care team can help them to deliver care swiftly without breaching confidentiality.
Evolving healthcare technologies
The healthcare industry is constantly changing. It is filled with medical breakthroughs, innovative technologies and procedures, and an increasing number of competitive hospitals and medical institutes.
From treating common diseases in new ways to uncovering modern steps to improve a person’s well-being, the industry is pushing the boundaries of traditional medicine.
Technology is becoming a dominant force in healthcare. The digitization of healthcare is a reality and one that is arguably simplifying tasks such as patient tracking and treatment, record sharing, and patient intake.
However, it is not just the healthcare industry that is changing but also how individuals interact with technology. Healthcare providers, particularly travel nurses, are now using digital solutions to make their services more accessible and efficient.
Consider the example of telehealth. Telehealth consultations are increasing rapidly, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
If you aspire to become a travel nurse, you need to familiarize yourself with these telehealth platforms to centralize patient care and identify the most effective course of treatment.
Like video conferencing apps, telehealth has been around for quite some time. However, the pandemic has supercharged the usage of these platforms.
A Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention report shows that telehealth visits increased by 154% from March 2019 to March 2020. That number is only expected to grow as 35% of Americans have said that they would consider permanently replacing in-person visits with on-demand online healthcare.
Whether one views this change positively or negatively, moving from in-person to online follow-ups has transformed how healthcare workers do their jobs. For travel nurses seeking more opportunities, having the right knowledge and skills to navigate telehealth platforms enables them to reduce patient no-shows and increase treatment persistence.
Since telehealth provides easy access and scheduling, travel nurses can enlarge their client base and catchment areas. This is particularly important in locations where most of the overall population lives in rural areas.
Beyond telehealth, automation has also changed how nurses do their jobs. Manual data entry and demanding workloads can lead to errors, the emergence of innovative technologies such as electronic health records (EHR) and automation has enabled healthcare workers to focus on tasks pertinent to their duties.
How can you make sure you are benefiting from these technologies? A good start is exploring existing issues and staying on top of what is available. We’ve already established that telehealth is currently making a big splash. However, in a year or two, this will most likely change because innovation is nearly continuous in the technology space.
In other words, you need to be on the lookout for innovative approaches to technology integration that can improve patients or the practice. Through this process, you can modernize and make lasting change in an industry crippled by outdated systems and unproductive procedures.
When nurses understand how to navigate these innovative technologies quickly, they can manage a larger population of patients at a time.
In your nursing career, there may come a time when you need to polish your skills to remain competitive.
For example, if you want to be a travel nurse, you may need to take tests such as the National Council Licensure Exam in addition to earning a nursing degree to be eligible.
Although the demand for nurses is constantly high, some nurses are currently out of work. Unlike other fields with fewer applicants, the problem is not always related to a shortage of nurses; it is sometimes due to a lack of sufficiently-trained nurses.
If you are working as a travel nurse, you won’t be in one place for too long. In fact, most registered nurses who travel for work spend an average of three months at a healthcare facility before moving on to the next location.
For this reason, you might not be able to anticipate your next assignment. As a travel nurse, you need to polish your skills to adapt to your current working environment. Although their goals are almost identical, every hospital does things differently. For a travel nurse to succeed, he or she needs to be willing to pick up new styles and adapt.
One way of doing that is by taking courses that focus on travel nursing. These courses allow you to ensure that you have the right skills to adapt to these new working styles.
However, as a working professional, you may struggle to find sufficient time to do other things outside of work. The last thing many nurses want is to drive to school after a hard day at work.
Fortunately, online learning can solve this problem. The advantage of studying to become a travel nurse online is that the course is designed to accommodate your schedule. With online learning, you can attend classes at a time that is convenient for you and complete assignments and tests without hassle.
When you can learn at your desired pace, you can make the necessary adjustments for optimal learning.
Moreover, self-paced learning enables nurses to concentrate on areas that interest them the most or that they understand better. This allows you to minimize the feelings of frustration, anxiety, and boredom that students often experience in a classroom setting.
Unlike traditional learning, which works on a set schedule, studying online to become a travel nurse allows you to gain complete control over your learning.
This is the exact opposite of what occurs in traditional learning settings. When you are in a classroom setting, you have no control over your learning. You take what you can get from your professor, even if it has nothing to do with your career goal.
Have you ever found yourself studying a course in engineering and asking how it relates to your nursing profession in the first place? Luckily, this won’t happen with online courses. When you have the opportunity to choose what you want to learn, you can move quickly through the course and obtain your degree.
It also makes it easier for you to focus and chime in with ideas and questions, which can help improve your confidence to learn even more.
How to become a travel nurse
Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are multiple steps you can take to begin a career as a travel nurse.
Before we delve into that, let’s first discuss how travel nursing works. In many cases, a traveling nurse is placed in a clinic, hospital, or other medical facility, depending on the needs of the staff and the preference of the nurse.
Your job duties as a traveling nurse will vary depending on the type of facility you are working in, your specialty, and the individual needs of your patients.
However, traveling nurses always contribute to the larger medical team’s goals by conducting tasks such as helping doctors during operations and exams, providing and tracking patient medications, and performing basic laboratory work.
Here are some steps you can take to become a travel nurse.
Earn an ASN or BSN degree
First, you have to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution like Elmhurst University to get started on your journey of being a travel nurse.
A BSN degree can take at least four years. However, students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing can usually transfer at least some credits toward an accelerated BSN.
Regardless of your chosen institution, BSN programs usually require a high school diploma or GED in addition to coursework in chemistry, science, and math.
To become a registered nurse, you need to take licensure exams such as the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs.
This computer-adaptive examination usually takes up to six hours and covers nursing practice, treatments, conditions, legal and ethical issues, and patient education.
Once you pass the licensure exam and meet the board of nursing requirements in your state, you will be eligible to become a registered nurse.
From there, it’s a matter of gaining the right license to work in the state where you want to get a job. This is not that difficult nowadays, especially with the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) agreement between states that enables RNs to hold a single nursing license valid in numerous states.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing monitors what states have enacted and implemented the agreement. If you live in a state that is part of the NLC, you can earn this multistate license in your state of residency. However, if you do not live in a compact state, you may need to seek your license in the state where you wish to work.
It is worth noting that the NLC does not cover every U.S. state. Therefore, you have to make sure to check the state’s licensing requirements to become a travel nurse.
Gain real-world experience
After earning your degree and license, you should take some time to work in a hospital setting to get used to the work.
You may need to become certified in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support before you can sign on to a travel nursing agency. Most places require you to have at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty to become eligible.
Your clinical background will determine the specific opening you will qualify for as a travel nurse. Healthcare institutions and hospitals are continuously on the lookout for experienced nurses with specific specializations and advanced training.
Find a travel nursing agency
Once your education, nursing experience, and credentials are in place, you will need to find a travel nursing agency to work with.
There are several resources you can use to find the right agency. These include rating services, lead generators, colleague referrals, and professional networking sites.
While researching travel nursing agencies and contracts, consider the following factors:
- What areas the agency serves
- How their pay package is structured
- What the agency provides in terms of health insurance
- If the agency provides any signing incentives or end-of-assignment bonuses
- How much time you will be able to take off between assignments
Taking all these factors into consideration will help you find a travel nursing agency that is suitable for your skills as well as your professional and personal goals.
There are so many things you need to prepare for in the healthcare industry, especially when working as a travel nurse. Preparing for this challenge properly can give you an edge in the field.