The medical field is ever-evolving, and these changes have a direct impact on nurses’ day-to-day lives. We’re taking a look at the upcoming decade and discussing some of the most immediate trends that will affect nursing for the next 10 years. Here are nine things that will shape the world of nursing in the 2020s:
1. Telemedicine and Remote Work
Many professions are moving towards a work-from-home model, and nursing might be next. Telehealth systems allow nurses to see patients via a secure video call, chat with them over instant message and send test results electronically and immediately. This process is more convenient for both the nurse and the patient and allows them to cut down on transportation time. While telemedicine is just now beginning to spread, as technology advances and becomes more secure, it will become even more prevalent. Some insurance providers are even beginning to cover telehealth visits.
2. Wearable Technology
Wearable technology will further enable a nurse’s ability to monitor patients remotely. Indeed, many people already regularly monitor their heart rate with fitness trackers, and there’s a personal EKG monitor that can take a medical-grade reading at home using a smartphone app and a fingerpad. As these devices become more accurate, nurses and other healthcare professionals will be able to keep tabs on patients from afar and potentially flag health issues before they turn into a crisis.
3. Big Data (and Data Safety)
Most hospitals have completed, or are in the process of completing, their transition to an electronic health record (EHR) system. These systems mean that an unprecedented amount of patient data can now be collected and shared, making it easier than ever to make data-based decisions. However, storing data electronically also makes such sensitive patient information vulnerable to hacks and leaks. Nurses will need to know how to properly use such systems to guard against a potential data breach and how to parse large quantities of patient data for the relevant information.
4. Robots and Artificial Intelligence
Robots already assist surgeons in the operating room, and they’ll only become a more common sight around hospitals as the decade progresses. Artificial intelligence (AI) will also become more popular, both as an operating system for robots and as freestanding software that can comb through patient data, making forecasts and recommending treatments. These smart algorithms can assist nurses in sorting through complex EHR records and help leaders identify overall treatment trends in their facility.
5. Patient Engagement
Thanks to EHR and the prevalence of health information available, patients are becoming more involved than ever in their healthcare journeys. While this patient engagement is great, it can sometimes have negative consequences, such as when patients become convinced by misinformation about vaccines and refuse to let themselves or their children get immunized as a result. Nurses will have to take the lead in advocating for the benefits of EHR systems while combating misinformation found online.
6. More Outpatient Centers
With the advances in both medical research and technology, less and less medical care needs to be performed inside a traditional hospital. A surgery that might have once kept a patient overnight in the hospital can now be done in an outpatient center, so the patient can go home and sleep in their very own bed that night. The aging population of baby boomers also means that more and more seniors will need ongoing medical care in untraditional environments such as senior living facilities and their homes. Nurses need to become comfortable working in these non-hospital care environments as the demand begins to shift.
7. New Forms of Education
In-person nursing degree programs aren’t going away anytime soon, but some exciting new developments are opening up new avenues of education. Online degrees and shorter training courses are being offered by more and more accredited institutions, creating continuing education opportunities for nurses who don’t live near such universities. Video lectures, interactive modules, and online quizzes all make for an engaging and educational experience. While it’s still in the early stages, some companies are also making virtual reality (VR) experiences that offer immersive training for surgeries and other medical procedures.
8. More Specialization
The healthcare field, in general, is moving towards more specialization, and this is true for nurses as well as other medical professionals. Specializing in a particular area like geriatric or cardiac care, and getting a certificate to prove it, demonstrates your expertise and opens up advancement opportunities at your current employer. A specialization (or several) will also make your résumé stand out if you’ve decided you’d like to make a move somewhere else. Many nurses who specialize find themselves earning not only more responsibilities but also a higher salary to go with their added work—and since there are dozens of nursing specialties to choose from, nurses are guaranteed to find one that fits their career aspirations.
9. Nursing Shortage
The further we get into the next decade, the greater the effects of the current nursing shortage will be. Experienced nurses will keep working longer and retire later, while brand new nurses fresh out of their degree programs will be entering the workforce. Nurses will likely continue to experience high patient-to-nurse ratios and high workloads. On the positive side, there will be lots of open positions for medical professionals looking to make a change, and facilities will be incentivized to retain nurses by offering good benefits, flexible work schedules, and other perks. Given the accompanying shortage of nurse educators, some employers may also offer tuition reimbursement or other benefits that will contribute to professional development.
The constant changes in the medical field mean that it’s an exciting industry to work in, but it also makes it hard to keep up with the latest developments. If you’re a nurse, keep an eye out for these nine developments as we move into the new decade.
About the Author
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com. A site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.