UK Experts Weigh In on Trends That Will Define the Decade: Nursing

photo of dean Janie Heath
Janie Heath is the dean of the UK College of Nursing.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Mar. 12, 2020) – The year 2020 kicks off a new decade. What will the next 10 years bring in the areas of health, technology, climate, the economy, politics and more? In a new recurring series, UKNow explores the next decade by asking University of Kentucky experts to discuss and predict upcoming trends in their areas.

Today, we spoke with Janie Heath, Warwick Professor of Nursing and dean of the College of Nursing. The World Health Organization declared 2020 as the year of the nurse. Dean Heath tells us what we can expect this year and in the decade beyond.

UKNow: What are you watching for or predicting in the coming decade that you think will be of interest of importance in the area?

Heath: We follow the Academic Voice for nursing education from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). This is a national initiative to transform our foundation for nursing education, known as, the essentials of nursing education” since fall of 2018.  For the first time in the history of AACN, over 25 key stakeholders including clinical partners with academic deans from a variety of institutions including public, private, small and academic health centers, to transform the way we educate nurse.  The major change is evaluating nursing students based on primarily competencies versus accumulating clinical hours and credits.

UKNow: What does UK contribute to this space?

Heath: We are fortunate to have two UK College of Nursing alum serving on this national task force. Cynthia McCurren, dean of Nursing at Grand Valley University, is one of our PhD alum and is the co-chair of the task force. Marge Wiggin, vice president of patient care, at Maine Medical Center, is one of our first doctor of nursing practice graduates, is a member of the task force as well.

College of Nursing leadership, Associate Deans Kristin Ashford, Ph.D. and Sheila Melander, Ph.D., are leading efforts at the College to ensure faculty engaged in the process. As President of the Kentucky Nurses Action Coalition, I am responsible to help lead efforts throughout the state to engage our nursing educator colleagues.

UKNow: What is something or some trend you are optimistic about? And what is something you are concerned with?

Heath: With transformation of nursing curricula for entry into practice and advanced nursing practice, we will be preparing and graduating stronger nurses for the workforce. Tomorrow’s nurses will have the necessary skills for an interprofessional team approach to drive evidence-based care that is competency based and underpins the science of our discipline and our values for inclusivity, equity and social justice.

Our concern is the mental health of our students and workforce.  One out of four campus students throughout the U.S. report they are depressed and are unable to function due to anxiety. Four hundred physicians take their lives by suicide each year and now nurses have higher rates of suicide than the general population.

UKNow: What will be the impact of these trends, in your judgement, on Kentucky? The country? The world?

Heath: Kentucky nurse educators and academic nurse leaders have always been early adopters and on the forefront for leading academic change; we have been at the table at the local, state, and national level and will continue to do so.  

The mental health of our students and the workforce is at the highest level of priority for academic institutions and health profession organizations throughout the country. We have a lot of work to do to integrate strategies to educate and raise awareness about mental health, de-stigmatize mental health, increase resources to support those struggling with mental health and wellness, educate and train all health providers (UK College of NSG – at the top of the list for leadership in this space) for suicide prevention (QPR program and CPI program) and regulate/monitor the landscape on nurse suicide. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.