For years, the nursing profession has remained an essential field of study and practice. Yet, with origins pre-dating the 19th century, it only makes sense that nursing care has evolved.1 The roles and responsibilities of today’s nurses have expanded exponentially, thanks in part to advances in technology and new patient demands. There are now many different types of nurses with specific specialties.
To help prospective nurses better understand today’s field and what the future of nursing may have in store, we’re breaking down recent shifts in the advancing healthcare industry and exploring which nursing education options might best support the nurses of tomorrow.
Changes in the Healthcare Industry
There are, of course, numerous changes that have already impacted the future of nursing—the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, influenced the entire healthcare field.2 But let’s explore two recent nursing trends that have the potential to influence the future of the profession.
Telehealth services allow patients with non-emergent health concerns to meet virtually with healthcare professionals instead of making an in-person appointment.
While telehealth wasn’t unheard of before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vastly expanded in popularity since 2020:
- The CDC reports that in October 2021, 37% of adults had used telemedicine services within the last 12 months.3
- In response to telehealth’s meteoric rise, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued temporary telehealth coverage for Medicare patients through 2024.4
- Medical experts report that while the US may begin to embrace pre-pandemic normalcy, telehealth will remain a critical tool for providers and patients in rural areas in the future.5
Familiarity with telehealth technologies, applications, and regulations are essential nursing skills for future nurses. People interested in a nursing career should also consider:
- Researching how telemedicine might impact their care specialties or clinical roles in the nursing workforce
- Incorporating telehealth best practices into their nursing education
Expanded Role of Nurses
While they were already integral to patient care in hospitals, nursing professionals have become even more critical players in hospital unit operations—their roles have expanded within the public health field.
A recent survey by Ascom North America breaks down how the nursing role has changed patient care in the hospital setting:6
- Patients who would have been treated in the ICU ten years ago could be more likely to be admitted to MedSurg units in the face of nationwide nursing shortages and limited ICU beds.
- Physicians and specialists (like respiratory therapists) aren’t always immediately available in lower-intensity wards like MedSurg. MedSurg nurses must bridge the gap when patients need immediate attention, providing emergent primary care until a doctor arrives.
- The shortage of experienced nurses and specialists means new nurses could take on the above role from day one.
Simply put, today’s healthcare system needs nurses who are prepared for anything.
Increased Need for Nursing Specialties
Prospective nursing students should also consider the current industry demand for nurses with specialized skills. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the aging Baby Boomer population could be contributing to the increased need for healthcare professionals who are specialists within the healthcare system, like:7
- Certified dialysis nurses – They operate dialysis machines, monitor dialysis patients, administer medications, and educate patients and their families about managing kidney diseases and disorders.
- Operating room nurses – These nurses are experts in surgical nursing, caring for patients before, during, and after surgeries.
- Nurse case managers – Nurse case managers typically work with a team of professionals (both clinical and non-clinical staff) to create long-term care plans for patients. Nurse case managers often further specialize in oncology, pediatrics, or other disciplines.
- Critical care nurses – Critical care nurses are specially trained to treat patients with life-threatening conditions. Like nurse case managers, critical care nurses can specialize in caring for a certain demographic or treating a specific illness.
- Certified nurse midwives – While it might sound counterintuitive, the aging US population is also creating a demand for registered and certified nurse midwives—nurses who specialize in prenatal care, birth care, family planning, and other gynecological services. As the US population ages, many certified nurse midwives are retiring, creating vacancies in clinical settings nationwide.
Which Nursing Career Pathway Should I Choose?
As telehealth, broader roles, and specialty needs impact the nursing industry, various occupational options are now available for all levels of nursing. Educational paths and professional development programs have become available for those looking to become nursing professionals of any level:
- Bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) programs that emphasize on-the-job training
- Nursing programs often describe these as practica, internships, or externships
- Specialty certificate or advanced degree programs
- These programs may focus on a nursing discipline, illness, or demographic
- Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) programs
- MSN programs can help nurses prepare for today’s demanding industry
Explore the Future of Nursing at Alliant International University
Recent changes have significantly impacted the future of nursing, so prospective nurses looking for excellent workforce preparation should choose nursing school programs informed by today’s nursing trends.
The nursing programs at Alliant International University provide students from different backgrounds with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference in clinical practice. The bachelor’s of science in nursing program is ideal for people who haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree, while the master’s of science in nursing direct-entry program allows people with a bachelor’s degree in a related field to jumpstart their master’s of nursing studies.
Take the first step in getting an education that matters—apply today.
- “How Nursing Has Changed Over Time.” Health eCareers. March 16, 2022. https://www.healthecareers.com/career-resources/nurse-career/how-nursin…. Accessed February 23, 2023.
- Jingxia, Cheng; Longlin, Zhu; Qiantao, Zuo; Wiexue, Peng; and Xiaolian, Jiang. “The Changes in the Nursing Practice Environment Brought by COVID-19 and Improvement Recommendations from the Nurses’ Perspective: A Cross-Sectional Study.” BMC Health Services Research Journal. June 6, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9169588/. Accessed February 14, 2023.
- Lucas, Jacqueline and Villarroel, Maria. “Telemedicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2021.” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db445.htm. Accessed February 14, 2023.
- “Telehealth Policy Changes After the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” US Department of Health and Human Services. January 23, 2023. https://telehealth.hhs.gov/providers/policy-changes-during-the-covid-19…. Accessed February 14, 2023.
- “Telehealth Utilization and Patient Demand in 2023: Best Guesses and Best Practices.” MGMA. Number 3, 2022. https://www.mgma.com/data/data-stories/telehealth-utilization-and-patie…. Accessed February 14, 2023.
- “Nursing Satisfaction: What Matters Most at Work.” Ascom North America. 2022. https://www.ascom.com/globalassets/assets/regions/north-america/news/bl…. Accessed February 14, 2023.
- Bal, Daniel. “5 Booming Nursing Specialties Where the Demand Is High.” Nurse Journal. August 29, 2022. https://nursejournal.org/articles/nursing-specialties-where-demand-is-h…. Accessed February 14, 2023.