What is the future of nursing careers? Predictions are that in 10 or 20 years, it will look nothing like it does today! With new technologies and drugs, changes in insurance and health care policies, and the shortage in nurses, the profession will have to reinvest itself. Many nursing functions will be automated. For example, documentation and updating patient records, smart beds to monitor vital signs, bar codes, and automatic medicine carts could reduce the time and errors in dispensing medications, and voice-activated technology would eliminate the need to constantly write things down. Other nursing task such as serving meals will be taken over by aides. This would give nurses more time to provide a human touch to their patients.
As a result of nursing shortages, healthcare facilities will be forced to use their nurses judiciously. Nurses will spend more time at the bedside as educators and care coordinators to refocus on the patient. With the lengths of patient stays shortening, nurses will have to make the best use of a shrinking amount of time hospital stays. Nurses will also spend more time in administration and supervision positions. They will need to know how to access knowledge and transfer it to the patient and their loved ones.
The changes in technology will possibly attract more men and minorities into the profession. Greater emphasis must be placed on supporting teaching careers and recruiting educators from diverse cultural backgrounds to relieve the serious shortage of nursing school faculty. Therefore, more loans and scholarships for master’s and PhDs would also have to be in place, and the colleges would have to pay the instructors more money.
If the nursing shortage continues, hospitals may have to be reserved only for the very sickest. That means that the number of outpatient care will increase, as will the need for home health care nurses. They will also serve more prominent roles in clinics, consulting firms, insurance companies, and software and technology companies. Nurses in the future would probably do much more population-based or community health care. They will identify risks and establish priorities for specific populations and groups. They will provide community education and work with employers and insurance payers to develop programs that save money as well as promote health.
Nurse practitioners have a bright future especially in geriatrics and gerontology. With the baby boomer generation reaching retirement, those nurses who are themselves baby boomers but are not yet ready to retire may find themselves in the role of consultants. They would be the geriatric providers of choice because they would have a better understanding of aging.
As technology and research progresses, in linking chronic illnesses to behaviors, nurses would focus more on preventing the illnesses rather than treatment. Also, drugs designed for healthcare that targets diseases before they start, and identifying risks for those diseases will enhance preventive care. This means that people are going to have to learn to take care of themselves more. The nursing shortage and rising health care costs will also put pressure on the health care system to change from an illness model to a wellness and prevention model.
Therefore, no matter what the future holds, nurses will have be prepared to keep learning, growing, and expanding and changing alongside he transformative role of the healthcare profession. That obviously comes easier when one is passionate about the career.