Nursing Trends and Challenges of Today and Tomorrow
By Mark Sprada, MBA, BSN, RN
There is no question that in 2012 we are witnessing an evolving nursing profession. Today s nurse is not the same one who donned uniform and cap just 50 years ago. Today s nurse isn t the same as the one from a mere decade ago. So, it makes sense that as the profession develops there are a number of emerging trends and challenges that must be addressed.
The Institute of Medicine recently released its report on the future of nursing, and the challenges they outlined reflect issues being faced by leadership across the country.
First, our profession is struggling to identify an educational requirement for entry to practice. As more health professionals continue to educate themselves through masters, doctorates and fellowships, many nurses do not enter the work force with a bachelor s degree. Existing nurses need to complete their undergraduate degree, while future nurses need advanced education that can be put into practice to improve patient outcomes and the population’s health.
Second, health care is challenged with how to keep up with ever-changing technology. Let s face it, technology has gone Star Trek. Whether the Electronic Record or the operating room, technology is an integral part of patient care and the practice. Leaders must recognize that education is necessary to make technology user-friendly for all nurses. Technology ultimately improves work flow, but first nurses must be engaged during planning, implementation and optimization of systems.
Third, as the world continues to diversify, the nursing profession also must become more diverse. Nurses need to be educated in cultural differences and have access to resources that make care for patients of all cultures routine.
Finally, the nursing average age continues to increase. A large percentage of nurses are baby boomers who are approaching retirement. Managers need to leverage their contributions and keep them in the workplace. At the same time, a potential shortage of nursing staff particularly highly qualified nurses needs to be addressed to prevent compromising patient care.
While each of these trends and challenges can seem daunting, there has never been a more exciting time to enter nursing. Just think of everything that nurses of the future will learn and accomplish.
As a nurse in 2012 and beyond, a person has the opportunity to not only be educated in a chosen field, but also constantly learn as he or she interacts with other disciplines throughout the health care system.
There are no limits to where a career in nursing can take someone. A nurse need only choose the career track he or she would like to follow, and with the right attitude and knowledge, the opportunities are limitless. Whether it is continuing as a clinician or a transition into systems leadership, with the proper education and real-world experience, nurses are positioned to be the leaders as health care transforms.
A successful career in nursing also brings rewards such as being a member one of America s most respected professions. And, in addition to educating patients, preventing complications and being the front line of accountability for cost mitigation, today s nurse will witness the continued evolution of a great field. Yes, it s a great time to be a nurse and it will be even greater and more respected in the future.