The Future of Nursing: What Does It Look Like?

First Posted: Aug 13, 2020 03:00 PM EDT
The Future of Nursing: What Does It Look Like?

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The healthcare industry is continuously changing and developing with the introduction of new treatments and more advanced technology. Nurses play a pivotal role in the industry, and traditional nurses' roles are a thing of the past. There's a higher population of aging patients with unique sets of needs. To provide the best level of care, changes are necessary.

Luckily, with research providing new and more effective treatment options, alongside improved technology, the industry is evolving to meet these needs. For those looking to pursue a career in nursing, it's an exciting time to get started. You must understand what the future of nursing looks like, so you can be strategic with your choices as you enter the field. With so many job roles available to nurses, you want to choose a futureproof path that will allow you to develop and progress as healthcare continues to shift.

Here is some crucial information about what you can expect in the near future regarding the nursing industry.

Higher education through online programs

While many registered nurses obtain their BSN in-person at a university, higher education is required to meet the evolving healthcare industry's demands. Those who take further education, such as Marymount's online FNP program, and MSN programs, receive priority over nurses who do not have these degrees.

With upskilling and further education available online, nurses can continue to work full-time while obtaining their degree, so they can still cover their family expenses, and won't lose their current job. Best of all, they can continue to gain valuable on-the-job experience while becoming educated in new treatments and technologies. Online education programs continue to increase in popularity and will do so for the foreseeable future.

Nurses will require BSNs

While entry-level nursing positions have typically only required you to be a registered nurse, the Institute of Medicine is moving towards requiring nurses in the United States to possess a BSN. They set a goal of having 80% of all nurses holding a BSN by this year, and while they haven't quite reached that goal yet, they will continue to strive for it. Studies have shown that nurses with higher education contribute to both lower risks of mortality and lower risks of failure to rescue. Hence, it's no surprise that the Institute of Medicine wants more educated nurses on staff. If you're considering becoming a nurse, prepare to take your BSN at the very least (MSN-FNP is even better).

Telehealth and chatbots will become the new normal

Automation is happening in every industry, including healthcare. Finding ways for patients to access care more conveniently is essential as the demand rises above the available resources. It's necessary to understand what is involved with telehealth and chatbots and how it may affect nursing. Telehealth allows patients to manage their healthcare through an online portal. If patients require prescription refills, access to test results, or need to schedule appointments, they can do it all through the portal without talking to anyone. Appointments can also take place online, via video chat, voice chat, or through messaging.

These online portals will automate many tasks that are typically performed in-person by a nurse, but the convenience makes them extremely popular. Wait times for an online appointment are shorter, and chatbots respond to patient queries instantly. On top of that, healthcare facilities don't have to pay a salary to a chatbot.  

There is a new chatbot platform called Florence, which patients can use to track their health, such as their weight, mood, and even their period cycles. It will also send out reminders for taking pills and help patients find local pharmacies and specialist doctors.

Reliance on technology

Clinical technologies are continuing to evolve to improve the effectiveness and accuracy at which nurses perform their duties. New software and devices are rendering manual systems outdated, and nurses will need to adapt by learning the latest technology. With software and devices like electronic IV monitors and medication administration systems, human error is reduced, and therefore, healthcare professionals will become increasingly reliant on these new systems.

For nurses who have been in the profession for many years, the transition will take longer, as lots of training is required. On top of that, they will need to be open to changing processes and new ways of reporting and interacting with patients. For those entering the field, the more education you can get on new technologies, the better equipped you will be for the industry.

A focus on population health

In an effect to reduce the pressure on the healthcare industry, there will be a growing focus on population health. Population health refers to a more broad and preventative approach to healthcare, which involves programs within communities that promote healthy living practices. By encouraging the population to eat well, exercise, and get vaccinated, there will be a reduction in the number of people requiring healthcare.

By implementing population health systems, the aim in each community is to increase physical activity and exercise, decrease diabetes, reduce the number of workdays missed on account of sickness, lower infant mortality rate, and more. There will also be a focus on social issues that could impact population health like food insecurity and lack of housing.

Nurses will play an integral part in population health initiatives by identifying the widespread problems within a community and connecting patients with the support and services that they need.

FNPs will have authority to operate their own practices

There is a predicted shortage of primary care physicians on the horizon due to the ever-growing aging population that will need care in the near future. By 2032, the United States could require an additional 122,000 more primary care physicians to keep up with the demand. With the predicted shortage looming, the healthcare industry is beginning to grant FNPs full practice authority. There are currently 23 states, including DC, which allow FNPs to run their own private practice, without needing supervision from a physician.

More states will inevitably continue to follow suit as they will require additional healthcare professionals to provide adequate care to their patients. It's excellent news for FNPs as more job opportunities are coming, and there is more opportunity for progression within the career path.

Bilingualism is becoming more important

It's no secret that being bilingual is extremely valuable, regardless of what career you're in. The United States is an extremely multi-cultural country, with over 350 languages spoken, according to the United States Census Bureau. As a nurse, you will treat patients that come from different backgrounds, and being able to understand them is incredibly important. Equally as important is that they can understand you. For many Americans, English is not their first language, although to do understand it and speak it at home. That said, 22% of Americans do not speak English at home, and therefore there must be healthcare professionals who can communicate with them.

Bilingual nurses will take priority over those who are not. Patient communication is one of the most essential parts of being a nurse. Being able to assess patient illnesses and injuries accurately is only possible through communication. Additionally, when advising on treatment, nurses need to give thorough and exact instructions to patients regarding at-home care and prescriptions.

Salaries will go up

Great news for registered nurses is that the increased demand also brings with it a boost in salary. To encourage more individuals to pursue a career in nursing, it needs to be lucrative. That is why the salary for nurses will continue to grow. While the growth varies based on specific job titles within the industry, in general, it is going up. From 2019 to 2020, the salary for Nurse Practitioners increased by 4.8%. Nurse Practitioners receive a higher wage than Registered Nurses, and therefore it is beneficial to invest in further education to obtain your MSN-FNP to access those higher wages.

Patients are more knowledgeable

Traditionally, patients would trust medical professionals' expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and ailments. With the amount of information that everyone has access to online, many are self-diagnosing before even seeing a nurse or doctor. Almost every patient in the younger generation will have researched their symptoms online to determine their condition. They have also likely searched for potential treatment options, both natural and pharmaceutical.

While a lot of the information online is inaccurate, patients may still have a decent understanding of what they are experiencing, especially because they know their bodies better than anyone. Nurses need to prepare for the queries and opinions that their patients may have when they come for assessment or treatment. Nurses will need to allow patients to voice their views on their condition and what they have learned before offering up professional knowledge and advice.

Patients may very well have identified what is wrong with them, but they may also have collected misinformation, which can lead to anxiety and stress. Often patients will assume the worst when they experience specific symptoms and go down the rabbit hole of searching on Google. One symptom could mean many different things, so it's essential to approach the subject with patience and compassion and work together to reach a valid conclusion.

Nurses are retiring later

Nurses are waiting longer to retire and opting to continue working. Working as a nurse, in the majority of clinical and hospital settings, is physically demanding and becomes more difficult as you age. That said, it's beneficial to have experienced nurses available to help with growing patient demands, though healthcare facilities need to accommodate their individual needs. The majority of RNs are between the ages of 45 and 59, with 24% of nurses still working at the age of 69.

We may not see the effects of this shift for many years, but it's predicted that by 2050, 75% of the total workforce in the United States will be over 65 years old. That could present a problem, with 75% of the workforce retiring at the same time.

Older nurses typically move off the hospital floor and into clinical positions. They often do reception in medical clinics and jobs that are similar, which don't have the physical demands of working on the floor, but their experience still provides value.

The rise of retail health clinics

Today's society wants convenience, and people expect the same when it comes to healthcare. When people are sick or need immediate care, they don't want to wait for days to get an appointment or sit waiting at the hospital for half of the day to be seen. That is why retail health clinics are becoming so popular. They are an alternative option for patients who need medical attention and often in drugstores and supermarkets. The clinics have extended operating hours, making them the perfect choice for those who work throughout the day and cannot attend a doctor's office during opening hours. Clinics also tend to be open 7 days a week and offer walk-in appointments without having to pre-book.

There are already over 2000 retail health clinics operating in the United States, which will continue to increase. They can offer a variety of essential health services such as treating colds, UTIs, performing physical assessments, and administering vaccinations. They have set prices for all their services, and you can see exactly how much each service costs before you visit. Another reason they are rising in popularity is that they are almost twice as cheap as a doctor's office, and 80% less expensive than going to the emergency room.

So, how does this affect nursing? The good news is that with so many states giving FNPs full practice authority, they can open up their own retail health clinics. Patients prefer the convenience and cost-effectiveness of visiting a retail health clinic for their ailments. These clinics offer new opportunities for FNPs who are entrepreneurial-minded and want to run a clinic.


Though no one can predict exactly what nursing will look like in the future, it's essential that all those pursuing this career path are ready for changes and strive to adapt to offer the best care possible to their patients. 

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