Our previous installment of the population-Based healthcare series, we discussed what exactly population-based healthcare is, why it is needed, as well as the many dangers of not having healthcare accessibility. In this installment, we will be examining the role of nurses in today’s healthcare structure, as well as social determinants and how they factor into healthcare accessibility.

How Important are Nurses?

When considering the hierarchy of healthcare in the United States, physicians are often envisioned at the top, with nurses landing somewhere beneath them on the list. In addition to this perception of nurses, average salaries often reflect these beliefs; with nurses earning about $66,000 annually, doctors earning about $187,000 annually, and surgeons earning anywhere from $364,000 to $580,000 annually. What these pay rates do not reflect, however, is the value of nurses in the lives of their patients as well as their daily presence. Nurses are typically viewed as the caregivers and attendants in hospitals, constantly available and ready to serve patients. Nurses may work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other outpatient facilities, performing a range of duties which include:

  • Administering medicine
  • Managing IV lines
  • Monitoring patient conditions and responding effectively to them
  • Maintaining records
  • Effectively communicating with doctors and patients
  • Supervising other caregivers
  • Coordinating care
  • Executing leadership positions
  • Comforting patients

In addition to the listed responsibilities, nurses also have the weight of managing patient complaints and grievances, as well as forming relationships and emotional bonds. The link between a nurse and patient is an integral component of the healthcare structure and patient recovery. These many responsibilities are why nurses are such a valuable element of our healthcare system and why the workforce needs a massive boost in registered nurses in the coming years.

What are Social Determinants of Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are, “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” Examples of social determinants include race, gender, age, and location of residence. Social determinants play a major role in how accessible healthcare is to individuals, as well as whether they can manage the expenses. For example, an affluent family living in a major city is more likely to readily have access to healthcare, whereas a farmer in a rural area may have to travel two hours away to the nearest healthcare facility. Determinants such as these are examples of why public-based care is necessary. The goal is to bridge the gap between such determinants so that the rural farmer has just as much access to healthcare as the city family. Administering healthcare to those that do not have access can improve factors such as infant and maternal mortality rates as well as life expectancy rates.

How can Healthcare Providers Effectively Adjust Based on Social Determinants?

In cases where individuals are a long distance away from any healthcare facilities, it is worth mentioning technology and how it could be utilized to facilitate a connection between these individuals and healthcare providers. Referring back to the example of heart disease in the previous installment, an indicator is rapid weight gain. If patients are putting on 10 pounds in a matter of days, there can be systems implemented where scales report data to hospitals remotely, allowing the opportunity for instant action in regards to such health conditions. Regular follow-ups can also be made to ensure that patients are actually taking their medication and are able to manage their conditions. If an individual lives in a food desert, the healthcare provider may be able to factor in ways to ensure that the patient has ready access to health foods, especially if they can’t drive or get themselves to a store with a wholesome and healthy food supply. Key emphasis should not only be placed on managing health conditions but preventing them, and population-based care will allow healthcare providers to assess situations with social determinants and factors such as these.

What to Look for Next

In the next installment of our population-based healthcare series, we will review the financial benefits of population-based care, in addition to discussing prevention methods and how to maximize our healthcare spending as a nation. Stay tuned.