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5 things that will shape the future of nursing

by Monica Smith

Mar 10, 2021, 12:00 PM.

Professor Eric Fenkl says changes in society will continue to influence the nursing education universities provide.
Eric Fenkl
Eric Fenkl

Eric Fenkl, tenured associate professor at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, sees himself as an advocate, he says. Whether it’s students, the nursing industry or patients—each area needs support to improve society.

“As a FIU faculty member, I shape nursing practice by instilling nursing students with knowledge, sensitivity and respect for ethnically and culturally diverse LGBT populations,” states Fenkl who explained that COVID-19 really displayed the depth of health disparities that exist in our nation.

“I am fully vested—I want students to succeed. I see my role in that, setting an example. I want them to take something with them when they go. It’s what I strive for,” he says as he discusses the societal shifts that are shaping health care.

Cultural competence, diversity in patients, diversity of nurses, vulnerable populations and technology are all areas that are driving education in nursing, he says, and many times they overlap.

1. Cultural competence

With several decades of experience and many published articles in scientific journals, Fenkl is the co-author of college-level textbooks on cultural competence in health care. It’s an area he believes everyone in nursing needs to complete to better serve diverse communities. 

Cultural competence in nursing allows practitioners to provide the best care for individuals as practitioners recognize, celebrate and work with patients of different cultural backgrounds who may hold different opinions, beliefs, thoughts, norms, customs and traditions.

At its core, says Fenkl, cultural competence helps communities like Miami have better health care and improves lives.

2. Diversity in patients

Another area that has influenced health care is diversity, he says, and points to the shifting population of Miami from the 1980s to now. 

“Miami is a good example of cultural competition with the diversity that is present. It’s an ever-changing city with large growth among those who are foreign born and first generation who need advocacy,” he explains and correlates cultural competence as a natural need for more diverse communities.

3. Diversity in nurses

Nursing has always been a female-dominated field, but this is changing, notes Fenkl. He highlights that a more diverse population of nurses will be of greater support to culturally diverse communities. He emphasizes that FIU has one of the highest numbers of male students in nursing and also points out that a diverse faculty produces diverse student bodies—something that the university is known for.

4. Vulnerable populations

One of the biggest issues in the nation, discusses Fenkl, is access to health care among vulnerable populations.

“When you look at the barriers, cost is so prohibitive, people are reluctant to seek out health care,” he asserts and mentions the vulnerabilities of African Americans with getting care for COVID-19. “Nurses need to be involved with communities.”

5. Technology

Looking forward, it’s clear that digital health tools will offer more specific care. The growth of telehealth, for example, has offered new pathways for health treatment, Fenkl advances.

“We need to look for ways we can reach people that are more comfortable. We can’t go backwards. Everything that happens in life changes us,” he reasons.

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