Health care is a constantly evolving industry. This is arguably most evident 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 the future trends in nursing and how they may shape patient care.
What the Nursing Shortage Means for Nurses
A projected shortage of nurses is poised to impact the industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% job growth for registered nurses (RNs) and 45% job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists between 2020 and 2030. Both percentages are significantly higher than the 8% average growth projected for all professions for the same period.
The nursing shortage has a number of causes:
- Aging population: The U.S. Census reports that adults age 65 or older numbered 54 million in 2021, or about 16.5% of the population. The elderly require more medical care — and this demographic is only expected to grow in the coming years.
- Nurse retirements: Nurses are part of the aging population, and many plan to retire in the next several years. A report in the American Journal of Nursing says nearly 5 million nurses around the globe are expected to retire by 2030.
- Shortage of nursing faculty: The number of nursing instructors and professors isn’t high enough to meet the demand for training.
- Burnout: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many nurses to suffer burnout because of understaffing. Many nurses have chosen to retire early or leave the profession altogether.
With an advanced degree in nursing, nurses can leverage their skills to become leaders in their field as it evolves to meet these challenges. Effective leaders are those who will embrace current and future nursing trends, guiding the direction of care delivery for patients of all ages.
Trends Affecting the Future of Nursing
While the aging patient population and staffing shortages are important trends 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 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.
Telehealth gained even greater prominence during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The spread of infection made many people reluctant to go to hospitals for fear of contracting the virus. Telehealth allowed nurses and other providers to deliver virtual care, avoiding the risk of infection for themselves and their patients.
The advantages of telehealth — during and beyond the pandemic — make it attractive to patients and nurses alike. Nurses have the flexibility of working preferred hours. For example, they may work in a call center or in private practice, or they may work in a disease management program. Patients may also find telehealth to be more convenient because it allows them to confer with clinical staff without having to drive to an office or hospital.
As with a traditional nurse-patient relationship, telehealth nurses assess patient needs using clinical best practices. They develop care plans in collaboration with patients, caregivers, and other medical staff. They evaluate outcomes and refine recommendations.
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 phone 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 share patient data efficiently, not only with patients but also with collaborating 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 technological skills, which can include understanding how to incorporate tech-driven innovations into care strategies. Because technology is constantly advancing, optimal care delivery requires that nurses keep abreast of industry innovations that could affect future nursing trends.
Artificial Intelligence and Automated Tasks in Nursing
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is streamlining patient care delivery. AI and machine learning allow providers to collect and analyze vast amounts of health data to guide decision-making. Some examples of AI in nursing include:
- Clinical decision support: Clinical decision support tools include alerts in EHRs. They can be used to predict risk and provide data to support diagnosis or treatment. Guided decision trees can improve care and prevent errors.
- Sensor-based technology: Nursing has begun leveraging remote sensor technology to improve patient care. AI can help gather data and facilitate patient monitoring, as well as recommend treatments based on the data. This is especially helpful in managing chronic illness.
- Mobile technology: Consumer fitness apps and mobile heart monitors are part of the growing demand for mobile health care. This technology generates a great deal of data for providers, which AI can help interpret.
- Voice assistants and robotics: A voice assistant can remind patients to take medication or monitor their blood pressure. Robotics can be used to augment patient care and patients’ movements.
The Future of Nursing Is Here — Are You Ready?
Are you ready to respond to the trends in nursing that are changing patient care? With coursework in clinical, theoretical, and practical concepts in nursing, the Regis College online Master of Science in Nursing program can prepare you for a satisfying career as a future-directed nursing professional.
Learn how you can make a positive impact on care delivery and become a leader in shaping nursing for generations to come.