Health care is a constantly evolving concept. This is arguably no more evident than in the field of nursing, where medical advances, government-mandated regulations, and technological innovation combine to change the look and feel of patient care.
For advanced practice nurses, such as those equipped with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), the ability to guide others through these evolutionary processes is critical, especially as the health care industry braces for an impending shortage of qualified nursing leaders. The first step in keeping up with this changing field is understanding what nursing trends are likely to shape the future of nursing.
What the Nursing Shortage Means for Nurses
A projected shortage of nurses is poised to hit all levels of the industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 12% job growth for registered nurses (RNs) and 26% job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists between 2018 and 2028. Both percentages are significantly higher than the 5% average growth projected for all professions. The primary reason for such rapid growth is the aging of baby boomers — a generation turning 65 in totality by 2029. Their presence promises to create an unprecedented number of older patients in need of care.
With an advanced degree in nursing, nurses can leverage their skills to become leaders in their field as it evolves to meet the needs of this projected influx of patients. Effective leaders will embrace current and emerging nursing trends, guiding the direction of care delivery for patients of all ages.
Trends Affecting the Future of Nursing
While the aging patient population is an important trend directly affecting the nursing industry, other trends are likewise shaping its future. These trends require nurses to have strong skills in areas beyond traditional nursing competencies, such as tech-driven knowledge.
Telehealth and Remote Nursing
Remote patient care via telephone has been around for decades. Yet the concept of telehealth has moved beyond the phone to incorporate a wide host of multimedia channels, including email, the internet, smartphone apps, and interactive videos. For instance, an email exchange between a patient and a nurse can concern the former’s symptoms and the latter’s recommendation based on patient history. These innovations will continue to transform telehealth into a sophisticated option for nursing care. Telehealth and remote nursing can also be an important collaborative tool to proactively help patients with self-care, without the need for scheduling an in-person visit.
Telehealth and remote nursing have many benefits for patients at all ages and stages of life, particularly during a global pandemic. While the nursing trend of remote patient care has become increasingly important in the last several years, it has become a necessary component of health care in 2020. The spread of COVID-19 has made patients reluctant to go to hospitals for fear of contracting the virus. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention writes that “telehealth services help provide necessary care to patients while minimizing the transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to healthcare personnel and patients.” By using telehealth services, nurses can screen patients who demonstrate symptoms of COVID-19, without having to come into contact with them.
Nurses can provide remote patient care in a variety of ways. Patients who want to speak directly with their nurses or primary care providers can use synchronous methods, such as telephone calls or video chats. Nurses can also implement asynchronous methods, such as sending messages, data, or images back and forth through portals or communication platforms. Remote patient monitoring is another telehealth option for nurses, primary care providers, physical therapists, and other medical professionals. Telehealth and remote nursing options not only help patients who have a difficult time visiting their nurses and care providers but also benefit all patients during a public health crisis.
Patient Data and Nursing Informatics
The prevalence of technology has changed the way nurses gather and share data. The use of electronic health records (EHRs), coupled with standardized nursing terminology, allows nurses to efficiently share patient data not only with patients but also with collaborative professionals such as physicians.
The advent of EHRs has also given rise to health informatics, a branch of nursing devoted to managing care-related data as it’s gathered and stored. Health informatics calls for nursing students to develop fundamental technology skills, which can include understanding how to incorporate tech-driven innovations into care strategies. Because technology is constantly advancing, optimal care delivery requires that nursing professionals keep abreast of industry innovations.
Artificial Intelligence and Automated Tasks in Nursing
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care doesn’t mean “robots taking over,” as the human touch of soft skills, such as compassion and empathy, will always be needed. Rather, AI is streamlining patient care delivery. AI-driven tech innovations — such as virtual nursing assistants that can deliver patient medication and automated diagnostic analysis based on computerized scans of a patient’s history — can help to minimize some of the stress related to the projected nursing shortage. AI applications can also provide assistance in other areas, such as cybersecurity and the management of payment-related data. This increased efficiency can make it easier for facilities to concentrate on delivering high-quality patient care.
Health care is driven by change. Whether the change is in patient demographics or health care delivery, it’s important for nursing leaders to be aware of nursing trends and how they can affect the future of health care. This insight can allow them to make a positive impact on care delivery. Learn how Regis College’s Master of Science in Nursing program can allow nursing professionals to refine the skills needed to make an impact on the future.
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), “Telehealth”
American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “Nursing Shortage”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Harvard Business Review, “10 Promising AI Applications in Health Care”
HIMSS, “Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society”
NCBI, “Nursing Shortage”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses