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How Has Nursing Changed Over the Last Decade?

Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in the nursing profession. During the Crimean war, she led a group of nurses and established the need for sanitation, clean water and proper nutrition. She also introduced the concept of triage. Her efforts reduced the mortality rate of the soldiers by two-thirds. Today nursing trends are rapidly changing the delivery of patient care.

Nurses who earn a online RN to BSN are better prepared to diagnose, treat and manage patients with chronic health conditions in a complex healthcare system.

Changes in Healthcare That Have Affected Nurses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for registered nurses (RNs) will increase by 15 percent from the years 2016 to 2026, which is faster growth than average for all occupations. These are some of the major nursing trends affecting healthcare:

  • Aging Population.
  • More Diverse Patients.
  • Retiring Nurses.
  • Expanded Job Opportunities.
  • Technology.
  • Higher Education.

Within five years, the majority of patients in the United States will be over the age of 65. By 2020, Americans are expected to live to an average of 80 years. Older patients generally have more chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and heart and kidney disease. Nurses need to be prepared to provide care to patients with serious illnesses in the late or last stages of their life.

The population is not only aging, but it is also becoming more diverse. Nurses treat patients with different social, cultural, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds more than ever before. To assist RNs with this nursing trend, schools and the healthcare industry must educate and recruit nurses who know how to care for a diverse patient population.

Many nurses continue to work beyond retirement age, and there is a fear that they will start to leave the workforce at the same time. This may create a void in nursing. For this reason, the need for new nurses continues to grow, and one concern is that there will not be enough nurse educators to prepare a new generation of nurses.

Traditionally, most nurses work in hospitals, but it is becoming common for them to find employment in private homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers and ambulatory care facilities. Hospitals may soon focus on only emergency, cardiac, burn, injury or cancer care.

Millennial-aged nurses are more tech savvy than many of their more experienced colleagues, which helps them meet the demands of a healthcare industry that is quickly becoming reliant on electronic devices and systems to retrieve and record information. In addition, nursing trends point to the rise in telehealth. With computers and phones, nurses will be able to give advice, provide reminders and health intervention as well as monitoring. Nurses can manage cases remotely, do telephone triage and provide information consulting. They can deliver their medical knowledge and nursing expertise to patients remotely so those patients do not have to travel for healthcare services.

For nurses to find employment or even keep their current positions, it is important that they earn a BSN. Although some hospitals will consider hiring nurses with an associate degree, they prefer BSNs. Often, hospitals request that nurses with an associate degree earn a BSN within five years of employment. Additionally, most healthcare systems are following the recommendation found in the landmark 2010 report "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health" published by the Institute of Medicine (renamed the National Academy of Medicine in 2015). The IOM called for 80 percent of nurses to hold a BSN by 2020.

Nursing Past and Future

While nurses with an associate degree can still find jobs, it is becoming harder. BSN-prepared nurses are able to practice at a higher level. BSN nurses who want to pursue leadership roles and jobs as educators and researchers can enroll in grad school.

Due to the shortage of primary care physicians, nurses are taking on greater responsibilities. They are moving outside of hospital settings and into the community to provide healthcare in homes, clinics and urgent care centers.

Because the patient population is aging and the use of innovative medical procedures is increasing, specialized nursing is becoming more prevalent. Nurses can specialize in a number of areas, including newborn intensive care, critical care and emergency rooms.

Nurses now have to protect the privacy of patients due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law prohibits healthcare providers from sharing confidential information. Before the HIPAA law was enacted, nurses were free to discuss a patient's condition with family members, but now they must receive the patient's permission.

RN to BSN Programs

The BSN is becoming the minimal education requirement for nursing. Working nurses can enroll in an online RN to BSN program so they can continue working. In an online program, students may find a course such as Emerging Issues in Health Care, which examines health-related concerns that affect the nursing profession.

The curricula in an online RN to BSN program may also explore the following:

  • Health Assessment.
  • Nursing Care for Older Adults.
  • Evidence-Based Practice.
  • Community Health.

As the healthcare industry continues to change, nurses will have to adapt to the new methods of patient care. While Florence Nightingale shed light on the need for nurses to administer comfort and cleanliness, nurses in the 21st century have added the use of technology and science to provide safe, quality patient care.

Learn more about the USC online RN to BSN program.

Sources: 10 Major Changes in Nursing in the Past 10 years

American Nurses Association: 4 Health Care Trends That Will Affect American Nurses

The Ochsner Journal: An Imperative: Patient-Centered Care for Our Aging Population Florence Nightingale

Minority Nurse: How Nursing Has Changed Over Time

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses - Job Outlook

Minority Nurse: The New Health Care Workplace

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