Did you know that nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the US, with nearly 4.2 million registered nurses? These professionals are the backbone of the healthcare sector as they are the primary providers of hospital patient care. Like any other profession, nursing is evolving tremendously. In this article, we will focus on some of the current healthcare trends in the US, particularly in nursing, and how you, as a nursing practitioner or prospective nurse, can prepare to align with these trends.
Online nursing programs
Digital education has come a long way in nursing and beyond. The first online program in nursing was rolled out in 1997, setting the pace for what is now commonplace. The COVID-19 pandemic cemented the place of online education, a trend that seems to be here to stay. There are now more than 400 online nursing education programs in the US.
An example of one of these programs is the direct entry MSN for non-nurses offered by Elmhurst University. This course has been specifically designed for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a different field and are now looking to pursue a career in nursing. It can be completed entirely online, except for clinical placements and a two-week residency which will be completed on campus. You can expect to receive the same support resources as you would in a traditional program, just virtually.
Nursing is known to be a very hands-on profession, but with the evolving technology, telehealth is becoming part of the practice. According to a study published by the JAMA Network, telehealth visits went up by 4,000% in 2020. Patients have been at the forefront of fueling this trend as it saves them travel time while limiting their exposure to disease.
Even though you don’t require a special certification to practice telehealth nursing, you must develop specific skillsets and knowledge to effectively deliver healthcare services remotely. For instance, you need to learn how to get patient feedback without relying on non-verbal communication. It would help if you also had some level of digital literacy to navigate devices. There are several ways to develop your telehealth nursing skills. Apart from gaining competency through your nursing program coursework, you can find resources online, such as articles and podcasts. These resources help you stay up to date with innovative approaches to telehealth.
Besides having numerous patient benefits, telehealth also opens new opportunities for nursing practitioners. For instance, you can participate in telephone triage set-ups for patients worldwide. Nurses can fulfill their duties virtually, even in emergencies, such as natural disasters.
The last century saw a lot of changes in the nursing profession, such as the introduction of specializations. There are now several possible areas that a nurse may pursue, and these continue to grow. The growth in new specialization areas is due to the fact that the healthcare needs of patients are becoming more complex. Therefore, specialization gives nurses the knowledge they need beyond the basic and standard information. For instance, with the rise of aesthetic procedures, a nurse can choose to specialize in that area. Other popular specializations include dialysis nursing, genetics nursing and cardiac nursing. Specializing as a nurse validates your proficiency in certain areas, which reassures your patients and their families. It also boosts your confidence in decision-making, which helps you do a better job.
In response to this trend, employers and recruiters are emphasizing certifications. Therefore, specializing can lead to career advancements through clinical ladders and promotions. You can also use this as leverage to negotiate for better pay.
The rise of nursing informatics and healthcare analytics
Nursing informatics is a trend growing at an incredibly fast rate. Nursing informatics is the use of technology to improve patient care. This trend will allow nurses to communicate with patients and handle diseases more effectively. It will also enable healthcare facilities to track patient data.
Nurses will also rely on informatics to develop treatment plans for patients. For instance, a nurse can analyze how a patient interacts with the environment to see if anything should be changed about their care. Nursing informatics will also make it easier for nurses to identify patterns, which helps create effective treatment plans.
On the topic of informatics and analytics, we are witnessing the integration of big data in healthcare. This technology will help identify healthcare trends while making the nurse’s job easier and reducing administrative costs.
Self-care for nurses
Nursing is one profession in which you must be ready for anything. You might have to work long hours with patients in critical conditions, which can sometimes be a source of stress. One of the trends that we are observing is the advocacy for self-care among nursing professionals. Nurse leaders are going the extra mile to support their teams. For instance, more leaders are embracing the open-door policy, where staff can walk in and vent without fear of being considered weak. Most importantly, nursing leaders have to serve as role models by prioritizing their own self-care.
Nurses are encouraged to consciously promote their wellbeing by taking breaks and having hobbies outside of work. It is also important for nurses to surround themselves with a strong support system.
A lack of self-care can be counterproductive. It can lead to burnout, which comes at a high cost to patients and organizations due to errors. Therefore, self-care should be viewed as a responsibility and not a luxury. It is also worth noting that self-care may look different from one person to the next. Therefore, nurse leaders should be flexible when designing self-care plans. Nurses should also pursue self-exploration to determine which approach best works for them.
Although nursing is an independent profession, current nursing practices encourage interprofessional collaboration. Nurses now work with professionals from different disciplines to form a cohesive team. This approach has proved effective in providing comprehensive care for patients. Nurses work with professionals such as physicians, social workers and occupational therapists to provide patient-centered care. It allows for the sharing of knowledge and expertise and collaborative decision-making. In such a setting, the nurse acts as the patient’s advocate as they spend the most time with them.
Therefore, the nurse facilitates team members’ communication by providing input and actively listening to others. Interprofessional collaboration calls for mutual respect and keeping an open mind as you have to welcome opinions from different people. Each member’s contributions and expertise are valued, and it’s important to give credit where it’s due and to embrace criticism.
Demand for bilingual nurses
The US is racially diverse, now more than ever. This dynamic population is increasing the demand for bilingual nurses. As nurses spend a lot of time with their patients, speaking the same language as them can help bridge barriers of communication. For instance, some words might lack a literal translation to English, making it important to find someone who can speak the first language. Effective communication is the foundation of higher-quality care.
Healthcare legislation has also impacted the need for bilingual nurses. The Affordable Care Act requires hospitals and healthcare facilities to make reasonable accommodations for patients with limited English proficiency. This means providing access to language assistance services, often via the phone, if no one is available in person. Some of the top languages spoken in the US include French, Polish, Japanese, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Besides providing higher-quality care, the presence of bilingual nurses signals respect and cultural competency. It also reduces overall healthcare costs because it reduces the need for external translation and interpretation services.
Growth in nonclinical nursing careers
One of the most interesting nursing trends that we are witnessing is nurses moving into nonclinical roles. Nursing programs are incredibly versatile, giving graduates the knowledge and skills to work in different contexts, even outside of the clinical setting. For instance, nursing practitioners can advance their education to become health policymakers and hospital administrators. Similarly, nurses with a soft spot for technology are pivoting to work in areas such as bioinformatics analytics. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit are helping to design business solutions for healthcare, such as electronic health record systems and mobile telemedicine applications. It is important to have the input of nurses in the design of these products to ensure that they are practical and easy to use.
Nurses can also use their expertise to consult in areas such as employee wellness and community engagement. They can also venture into academia to train the next generation of nurses and conduct research to streamline nursing practices.
The aging population and geriatric care
The aging population is growing at a very fast rate in the US, which is impacting healthcare, including nursing. Medical advancements have led to increased life expectancy, so the demand for geriatric nursing has also increased. It is worth noting that older adults often experience complex health issues, such as dementia and hypertension. Geriatric nurses are trained to assess the unique needs of older adults.
Geriatric care also calls for a holistic approach – looking at the patient’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing. Older adults also often take multiple medications. Therefore, a nurse needs to help manage medication, such as monitoring for side effects and educating older adults about safe medication use.
Notably, geriatric care comes with unique ethical and legal considerations. There are issues revolving around autonomy, guardianship, decision-making and informed consent. Therefore, nurses have to be knowledgeable about navigating these ethical issues. Sometimes, ethical and legal considerations might contradict each other. In that case, a nurse might consider consulting with their peers and leaders to figure out which one takes precedence.
How to navigate trends in nursing
As a nurse, you need to make a conscious effort to adapt to these changes in healthcare. One of the ways of doing this is staying updated with the latest research and best practices in the profession. You can attend industry conferences and read journals and other online resources. It is also important to seek out opportunities for professional development, such as certifications and training. These will help you gain expertise in emerging areas of nursing practice. It would help to seek mentorship and constantly network with other nurses from different specializations.
Most importantly, it would be best if you kept an open mind. This profession is evolving tremendously, and only the flexible ones will survive. You must be prepared for new technologies, policies and care models – otherwise, you might become obsolete.
While it is important to collaborate with people in the nursing profession, it is equally important to collaborate with people from other professions – healthcare and beyond. You will learn how to navigate complex healthcare trends and challenges.
Even as these changes occur, you can play an active role in streamlining nursing practice. You can do so by advocating for your patients. To do this, you must be informed about healthcare policies and regulations impacting nursing practice. The next step is participating in professional organizations and advocacy efforts to drive positive change in nursing and healthcare in general.
Which trends should I incorporate in my practice?
As a nurse, not all nursing trends will be relevant to your practice area. You need to evaluate the pros and cons of each trend before making the decision. Patient safety should always be the top priority in your job. Therefore, assess whether the trend in question aligns with evidence-based practice and is supported by credible research and guidelines. It is also important to stay within the scope of your nursing practice and licensure. Another factor to consider is resource availability. Do you have the resources, such as equipment, staffing and support, to incorporate a particular trend in your practice? Finally, reflect on your values and beliefs regarding nursing practice. Don’t follow trends blindly without evaluating their alignment with nursing philosophies and ethical principles.