Future of nursing: Top outlooks and trends

A wave of changes have recently reshaped the landscape of 21st century health care in America, disrupting fundamental understandings of patient-provider relationships and other concepts along the way. The shifts in health care mirror many of the national trends at play, making it particularly important for nurses who’ve earned or are seeking to earn an online Master of Science in Nursing to note these patterns, as they will ultimately affect career opportunities.

In some ways, it’s easy to see how health care has changed, starting with the reforms of the Affordable Care Act and continuing through to the present day and the uncertain future of policy. The role of technology is also impossible to ignore as it becomes more intertwined in daily life. However, while these macro trends certainly seem to carry the greatest sway over the future of nursing, they are not the only ones. For instance, patients are more so consumers of health care now, with access to wealths of information and apps that sell insurance, allowing them to make more informed decisions. The transition to value-based care too signals important shifts for MSN-holding nurses to watch.

Here’s a look at the future of nursing, with outlooks and trends that will dominate the nursing conversation going forward.A wave of changes have recently reshaped the landscape of 21st century health care in America, disrupting fundamental understandings of patient-provider relationships and other concepts along the way. The shifts in health care mirror many of the national trends at play, making it particularly important for nurses who’ve earned or are seeking to earn an online Master of Science in Nursing to note these patterns, as they will ultimately affect career opportunities.

In some ways, it’s easy to see how health care has changed, starting with the reforms of the Affordable Care Act and continuing through to the present day and the uncertain future of policy. The role of technology is also impossible to ignore as it becomes more intertwined in daily life. However, while these macro trends certainly seem to carry the greatest sway over the future of nursing, they are not the only ones. For instance, patients are more so consumers of health care now, with access to wealths of information and apps that sell insurance, allowing them to make more informed decisions. The transition to value-based care too signals important shifts for MSN-holding nurses to watch.

Here’s a look at the future of nursing, with outlooks and trends that will dominate the nursing conversation going forward.

Aging population intensifies demand

The generational sea changes in the American population have touched life in all different ways. While millennials (the most represented cohort in the workforce) may be getting attention in the media, it’s baby boomers that will portend the biggest changes for nurses. According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the number of Americans aged 65 and up is projected to double from 46 million in 2016 to 98 million by 2060. As a share of the overall population, seniors 65 and older will make up nearly a quarter of persons, up from 15 percent.

This means big things for nurses, because as more people age, the greater the demand will be for health care. Indeed, as waves of baby boomers retire, they will end up placing a great strain on nursing resources and settings. The PRB also found:

  • Aging baby boomers could drive a 75 percent increase in the number of seniors requiring nursing home care.
  • Elder care will also be affected, as the number of adults 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to triple by 2050 to 14 million.

The age of health care consumerism

Empowered by being able to access a world of information at their fingertips, patients have increasingly exerted their influence as consumers of health care. What this means is Americans now have more options than ever before to research providers, services and prices in ways that are changing how care is delivered and marketed. The proliferation of technology has driven this change, as consumers can now utilize apps to pay medical bills or compare one provider to another.

Consumers have never been as active in deciding how they seek care, and providers have had to catch up with their demands (like price transparency, a simplified billing process and a more streamlined patient experience) or risk losing business.

However, few settings (namely hospitals and larger health systems) are prepared for this shift. A 2017 Kaufman Hall study on how well providers are positioned to tackle consumer found only 8 percent held meeting consumer expectations as a high priority. This trend of consumerism isn’t going anywhere any time soon: Consumers rarely cede influence once gained, so it there is potential for MSN-prepared nurses to help lift providers to meet the challenges.

Solid job growth, but shortage lurks

Nurses with an online MSN are in the right position to take advantage of better-than-average job growth in the profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses are expected to see 16 percent job growth through 2024, more than double the 7 percent projected growth rate for all occupations. Similarly, nursing positions that usually require a postgraduate degree are slated to experience even greater growth: Positions for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners are forecast to increase 31 percent through 2024.

However, despite the favorable job fortunes nurses will see, a widening talent gap threatens to cause problems for the health care industry. The Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) at Georgetown University projected in a study that by 2020 there would be a shortage of 193,000 nursing professionals in the U.S. A mass of factors affect this situation. For one, the demands of an aging and increasingly insured population strains resources, while the nursing workforce is experiencing the effects of aging as well in its ranks (i.e. more nursing talent is retiring). In such hiring conditions, employers often see the MSN or other advanced degrees as an advantage in nursing job applicants.

Technology ups the game

Transformative breakthroughs in technology have greatly changed health care to very different degrees. On a slightly smaller scale (that is, being less invasive) fitness trackers have given patients more control and insight into their own health. But that’s just skimming the surface of the progress technology has enabled in health care. Telemedicine is one overarching theme to this discussion – which allows providers to increase rural residents’ access to cost-effective, quality care – but the applications can be even more highly specific. In research on the health care industry, PricewaterhouseCoopers found:

  • 43.6 percent of patients have a home electrocardiogram that transmits results via a consumer’s phone.
  • 42.6 percent of patients have a defibrillator or pacemaker that is checked wirelessly.

Electronic health records are another important piece of the puzzle. The tool has become ubiquitous in health care and is something nurses interact with on a daily basis. As a centralized resource for all the necessary patient information, diagnostics and note-taking, EHRs can be leveraged to improve transfers of care by ensuring nothing is passed over or lost in the process. They also figure into another big topic in health care: online security.

Cybersecurity warrants nurses’ attention

The health care industry is one that is constantly under siege from cybercriminals. And it’s not just large-scale events like the Anthem data hack that exposed sensitive employee information or the ransomware attack that shut down the National Health Service in England. KPMG, a global auditing firm, found in 2017 that 47 percent of health care providers and health plans reported a HIPAA-related security instance, up from 37 percent in 2015. The widespread threat will be something for nurses to monitor, and ensure they address in their settings by following protocols and avoiding using personal devices to access patient data.

Earn an MSN from University of San Francisco

One common thread tying all of these trends and outlooks together is that more will be asked of nurses, whether it means caring for an aging population, keeping up with the pace of technology or helping their workplaces orient toward consumerism in health care. As a way to prepare for this, nurses might want to consider earning a postgraduate degree. Interested readers can learn more about the University of San Francisco’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.

Recommended reading:

How To Prepare For The Evolution Of Your Nursing Career Before Graduation

What Does It Take To Become A Clinical Nurse Leader?

Sources:

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Media-Guides/2016/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet.aspx

https://www.kaufmanhall.com/sites/default/files/2017-State-of-Consumerism-in-Healthcare.pdf

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-6

https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Nursing-Supply-Final.pdf

https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/healthcare/emerging-trends-pwc-healthcare/new-entrants-healthcare-provision.html

https://home.kpmg.com/us/en/home/media/press-releases/2017/07/healthcare-cybersecurity-execs-cite-surge-in-system-breaches-data-loss-since-2015-kpmg-survey.html

 

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