This past month, I was able to participate in an exercise to look into the future of medical-surgical nursing. Looking to the future can always be a little unsettling, but during this discussion, we were able to look at the preferred future, the expected future, and the feared future for nursing and healthcare. This exercise got the group thinking beyond the present state of our lives and current positions, pushing us to imagine what it is going to look like next.
As we work day in and day out, many days doing similar tasks, it can be harder to look beyond our own units and areas. As a new graduate nurse, I did not have any work friends outside of my own unit, even though I worked at a large hospital with many nurses working at the same time, in the same building, and even right across the hall. As I moved into a charge nurse role, I started to know more about the hospital and its many different parts. It is easy to stay in our own area and never consider how changes in the healthcare landscape might come back to impact you. The exercise of visioning and environmental scanning has helped me step out of my comfort zone and consider what might be coming next.
When looking around your regional area, or state, think about what you expect medical-surgical nursing to look like in 10–15 years? Do you think it will be much different than now? What have you noticed at other organizations, or what have you heard in your nursing social media groups? We can expect a certain number of things to stay the same, but we also should expect there will be quite a few changes as well.
Next is to think about what you would prefer medical-surgical nursing looks like in 10–15 years. To me, this is the most fun area to consider because it can include every great idea you have to improve the nursing environment, patient outcomes, and drive innovation. I tend to be someone who has grand ideas and is always looking at things through rose-colored glasses. This would be a great way to spark ideas in your units and areas to see what your teams come up with. The sky is the limit (well, almost) with thinking about what nursing can be like.
For me, the hardest part of this experience was thinking about the feared future. This might come easier to some of you, but I am an optimist, and I try not to think about what ifs. For this, consider what medical-surgical nurses fear would happen to healthcare in the coming 10–15 years. As I always say, as a nurse, sometimes “I know too much,” and I do not want to go down this road. However, if we do not name our fears, we cannot plan for our fears. This is an important piece of visioning and preparing for that feared future.
In conclusion, I do believe looking at the future of medical-surgical nursing through a new lens this past month has given me confidence in the strong, knowledgeable, and flexible profession we are in. We too will reach for the stars and be ready for the expected, all while planning for the next shoe to drop.