VIEWPOINT: The role of health care professionals in a changing sector

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The health care sector is undergoing a significant change, moving away from a system of caring for the sick to early intervention, prevention and supporting of wellbeing. An aging and growing population as a result of a higher life expectancy is providing new challenges for health care providers. 

According to a study by Deloitte, life expectancy is projected to increase from 73.5 years in 2018 to 74.4 in 2022 and the effects are expected to be most noticeable in Japan, followed by Western Europe, but even in some developing countries. In addition to an increasingly older population, diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are on the rise. In particular, health care professionals are facing the pressure of an older population resulting in an increasing need for care. It is estimated that 20.7 million out of the 43.5 million health care workers in the world are nurses and midwives, accounting for nearly 50% of the health care workforce, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Worldwide the demand for health workers is expected to double to 80 million health workers by 2030 leaving a global shortfall of 18 million health workers in primarily low and lower-middle income countries.  

In the nursing profession, the higher demand for staff coincides with a lack of new incoming nurses to support and replace existing nurses as well as a current trend in the industry to leave the profession in search of better income or career opportunities, according to the WHO. Nurses and midwives deliver core services at all levels of the health system and across the continuum of care to promote health, improve patient care, service delivery and health outcomes. Meanwhile, the development of higher medical technologies and more sophisticated treatment requires specialist nurses such as cancer nurses, endocrinology nurses, diabetes nurses, IBD nurses and cardiology nurses. However, practice, status, training duration and content may be drastically different from one country to another in Europe and there is no harmonization in terms of education, practice and status.

As the sector is changing, nurses practicing in Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) roles are becoming more and more essential to overcome the physician shortage, as they have a significant impact on the delivery of primary health care services and quality of health care outcomes. They undertake a comprehensive health assessments of patients with complex multiple healthcare needs, interpret the results of multiple different investigations in order to make a diagnosis, and plan and deliver care, competently making ethical, evidence based decisions. The development of APN roles varies greatly across countries: most country-specific information comes from more developed and primarily English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Nurses originating from these countries produce most of the relevant information about practice, education, role development, research, policy and regulatory developments.

Specialised nurses, advanced practice nurses, PhD nurses and professors of nursing create a high publishing output. The main nursing societies, such as ‘The International Council of Nurses’ or ‘The European Specialist Nurses Organisation’ have produced book series such as the ‘Advanced Practice in Endocrinology Nursing’ and the ‘Principles of Specialty Nursing’, published with Springer Nature. More and more medical societies include nursing steering committees that play an important role to represent the role of nurses in specialty fields such as for example the ‘The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine’ which publishes the ‘Intensive Care Medicinejournal. Springer Nature provides resource from and for nursing professionals including textbooks such as ‘The European Blood and Marrow Transplantation Textbook for Nurses’ or ‘Advanced Practice in Endocrinology Nursing’ as well as the multidisciplinary journal ‘Supportive Care in Cancer’ and the two open access journals, ‘BMC Nursing’ and ‘BMC Health Services Research’. 

To keep up with cutting-edge research and an ever-changing medical landscape, medical staff today must work together to efficiently and effectively deliver a high standard of care. Today, patients are diagnosed and treated by teams of physicians, nurses, and healthcare professionals from such specialties as imaging, pathology, surgery, and internal medicine. As clinical care becomes more complex and specialized, this collaboration and communication across disparate disciplines will only become more commonplace. Springer Nature’s Medicine eBook Collection is designed to provide clinically relevant information to all members of the patient-care team, an integral part of delivering first-rate comprehensive care.

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