In any healthcare profession, advances in technology, changes in patient population, and current events can have an impact on the job and on patient outcomes. Nurses are often on the front lines of these types of shifts, so it is always worth considering the pervasive healthcare trends that are both internal and external to patients and service providers. Take a look at these ten nursing trends to get a clear picture of where nursing is headed in 2015.
It should come as no surprise to any nurse that the U.S. population is aging. In fact, by 2020 more than 20% of the population in this country will be over the age of 65 and adults over the age of 85 are the fastest growing age group overall. As people age, they have a greater need for healthcare. For nurses, this means not only familiarizing themselves with the diagnoses and issues that affect older adults at a greater rate, but also learning how best to communicate with older adults and their families about care plans, preventative healthcare, and healthy aging.
Speaking of preventative care, it is another focal point for the future of healthcare.
Patients as well as health insurance providers and increasingly interested in engaging in preventative measures to live a sustainably healthy life and work to prevent future issues. For nurses, this means an increased demand for services in this area, as well as more interfacing with other healthcare professionals, such as nutritionists, physical therapists, and other professionals that work in careers ancillary to direct care but effective in preventative health.
By now, most nurses have likely experienced the impact of increased consumer education. Now more than ever patients are going to their appointments armed with lots of information about the symptoms, conditions, and possible treatments. This information can come from a variety of sources, ranging from the internet to television commercials. While having educated healthcare consumers can certainly be helpful in many ways, the burden also falls to nurses to be able to sort that information into valuable and specious.
With the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), millions more Americans have access to health insurance. For working nurses and those studying to enter the field, this means tremendous continuing opportunity. It also means addressing the healthcare challenges that may face individuals who have lived without health insurance for many years and are finally able to bring their concerns to healthcare professionals.
Increased access to technology has been among the most important nursing trends for many years running, but it continues to be an important aspect of the job. In 2015, nurses can expect to see a continued reliance on portable and mobile technology as well as an emphasis on telemedicine, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Nurses will need to be comfortable with constantly changing technologies so that they can choose the best care options for their patients, and also be able to intelligently interface with medical technologists.
One of the ways in which technology affects patients and nurses alike is the advent of electronic health records. Those hospitals and physician's offices that have not yet switched to this type of medical record are surely on their way to doing so. While electronic health records can make patient data easier to share and can improve outcomes, it also put private information at risk for theft. This means nurses will have to stay vigilant themselves and with staff training in 2015 to ensure that electronic patient data is safe and secure.
Online nursing education is certainly not new in 2015, but we can expect to see more programs offering increased flexibility in order to provide even better access to advanced nursing education. A continued nursing shortage, that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics will mean a need for more than a million new nurses by 2022, is fueling this interest in expanded educational offerings (BLS, 2012). Online nursing training programs will make it easier for working nurses to further their careers, taking RNs to Nurse Practitioners without having to sacrifice their current careers.
In addition to new educational opportunities, the nursing shortage is likely to mean that more nurses continue to work past the retirement age in 2015. This could mean that older, more experienced nurses are able to take on managerial roles and also provide hands-on training to those new to the profession. However, it may also mean that new nurses have more trouble finding a career foothold at some institutions where nurses have been unable or unwilling to retire.
The nursing profession originated in the community. Nurses (and physicians as well) would visit patients in their homes and interact with the community at large. However, as healthcare become more facility-focused, more nurses became tied to a single institution and started to treat patients only in hospitals or offices. In 2015 and beyond, some believe that there will be a shift back towards more community-based nursing, with nurses returning to community clinics and even home-based services.
Though we have touched on this topic earlier on, it is worth reiterating. As more people in the U.S. have access to healthcare and advances mean more machinery, software, and other specialty technologies that require specific training to use effectively, nurses will increasingly collaborate with nursing colleagues as well as non-nurse specialists on a regular basis. Further, nurses should expect to provide more collaborative care with such specialists as dentists, social workers, mental health professionals, and pharmacists in 2015 and beyond.
These 2015 trends for nursing are certainly not the only place we can expect to see change throughout the year, but it is a good list to consider when making choices about your own nursing career.