Punto Final: A Vision for a Healthier Nursing Workforce

By Adrianna Nava, PhD, MPA, RN President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) 

 Although the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the stark health disparities impacting communities of color, since 1975, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) has been delivering preventive care, in the form of health fairs, educational health workshops, and health programming to our Latino communities to help close the disparities gap. We are visible within our communities and help fill the void in primary care access. Even in the past two years, during the pandemic, our nurses have been administering COVID-19 vaccinations in the community. 

I can’t think of a better way to honor the work and spirit of nurses, than to advocate for their own health and wellbeing. This year, on International Nurses’ Day (March 12, 2022), nurses came together to raise attention to issues impacting their work environment via the Nurses March in DC. Around the globe, we see companies promoting work/life balance- through transitioning to virtual work or moving to 4-day work weeks…. but what about the work/life balances of our nurses? Especially those on the front lines? 

Nursing is the largest health care workforce in the country, with over 4 million nurses nationwide- and historically, we have had our own challenges in advocating for policy change for our core workforce issues. Many of our workforce issues have taken incremental state-by-state level approaches even though studies have shown access to adequate nursing care improves the quality of care delivered to our patients. For example, Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners, which grants advanced practice nurses the ability to perform similar tasks as primary care physicians. To date, only 23 states and DC have passed legislation to remove barriers to practice. 

Or even nurse/patient ratios, currently 16 states address nurse staffing in hospitals through laws or regulations. Nurses have been raising the red flag on nurse staffing for decades before due to unsafe working conditions, leading to patient harm. Recently, there was the Ronda Vaught case which caught national attention when a medication error almost led her to prison. This event, on top of the continued COVID-19 pandemic, has only made working as a nurse on the frontline even more stressful, leading to poor mental health, burnout and ultimately a high turnover in the nursing workforce. As of 2022, survey after survey, nurses have expressed their sincere interest in leaving the profession. 

Nursing care is important. Our health care system depends on nurses, our communities depend on nurses and everyone reading this today will need or love a nurse. Recently at NAHN, we joined the Nurses Obesity Network, which focuses on centering our efforts on improving a nurses’ physical and mental health. NAHN is proud to be part of this network in addition to advocating for state and national policies and initiatives that promote a positive work environment for nurses, leading to better overall health and retention of our workforce. We want to see our nursing workforce shine in the years to come. To join us, please visit: www.nahnnet.org.

Dr. Nava is an advocate for increasing access to care for underserved populations. As a registered nurse, she witnessed firsthand how access-related disparities led to poor health outcomes, especially for racial/ethnic minority groups. In serving her patients, she saw an opportunity to contribute to decreasing Latino health disparities by building the leadership capabilities of nurses. She currently serves as the President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) and is focused on building the leadership capacity of nurses, specifically Latino nurses, who continue to be underrepresented in nursing and health care leadership positions across the country.