What do the changing trends tell us about the future of nursing careers? In the next decade or two, it might look very different from what we see today. With new technologies, advancements in drugs and treatments, changes in healthcare policy, insurance policies and coverage, it it likely that the healthcare profession including nursing would have to reinvent itself. As an example, as technology continues to advance many healthcare functions can become automated. These include patient records, medical documentation, and use of smart beds used to monitor patients’ vital signs, more use of bar coding, and automated medicine carts which could be used to cut down time and reduce errors that result from dispensing medical drugs. In addition, voice-activated technology can be used to reduce the amount of written documentation. Tasks such as serving meals can also be taken over by trained medical aids in order to free up nurses to provide the human touch to their patients.
Due to nursing shortages, hospitals and other healthcare institutions have to use their staff more judiciously. Nurses will be tasked with spending more time at the bedside to serve as educators and care coordinators. This will refocus their role with their patients. As the lengths of hospital stays getting shorter due to medical costs, nurses must make most use of the time they spend with patients. Nurses will also work in more administrative roles and supervising positions. Given that, they will need to know how to access and retrieve knowledge and information in order to share it with their patients and their families.
Advancements in technology will also likely attract more males and minorities into the nursing profession. Thus, more emphasis would have to be put on supporting teaching careers and recruiting instructors from a diversity of cultural and educational backgrounds to cater to this shift, and to relive the shortage of nursing school instructors. In addition, more loans and financial scholarships at the graduate level (masters and Phd) will have to be increase to encourage more trained medical professionals to serve as teaching staff. In addition nursing colleges would have to be willing to pay the instructors higher salaries to attract and retain teaching staff.
As healthcare trends stand today, it is safe to assume that if the the nursing shortage persists, long-term stays and hospital admissions may have to be reserved for the patients that need it most. Thus, the number of outpatients will likely increases as will the need for more home-healthcare nursing professionals. It is also conceivable that nurses will play a larger role in insurance agencies, health consulting firms, and healthcare technology and software development companies. Nurses will also be involved more deeply with community health and population-based health work. Their responsibilities will include identifying health risks and setting up healthcare priorities for populations at higher risk. Healthcare professionals will also be involved in community education, and working with healthcare institutions and insurance agencies to develop healthcare programs that are designed to promote health and save costs for both the patients and their healthcare providers.
Medical personnel who work in gerontology and geriatrics, for example nurse practitioners also face what would be considered a bright future in terms of their careers. With people in the baby boom generation reaching retirement medical professionals will be required to focus on patients in this generational group. Further, nurses who are also baby boomers might not be ready to retire and may find themselves in a role of consulting. They would serve as healthcare providers who they themselves understand the needs of their patients better.
With medical and technology advancements, nurses will be required to focus more on disease and illness prevention rather than treatment. In addition, medical treatment that targets illness before they occur, and identification of potential risk will also enhance preventative healthcare. This will also mean that patients will need to take a more active role in learning more about better healthcare to prevent illness and disease. shortage and cost in healthcare will also add pressure to the system of care to concentrate more on wellness models rather than treatment models.
Regardless of what the future of healthcare holds, nurses and other medical professional will need to be prepared for the expanding and changing roles. They will need to remain lifelong learners in order to remain up-to-date with the medical field. As you can imagine, that comes easier when one is passionate about their profession.