Nursing is a highly revered and fulfilling career, and this has held true despite the strain on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. American Nurse Journal’s 2020 Nursing Trends and Salary Survey found 85% of respondents were committed to their career choice during this trying time.
If you’re a nurse or considering getting into nursing and you want to set career goals, it’s important to stay on top of trends in nursing. The clinical environment, technology and required education for nurses are constantly changing, and looking ahead can help you navigate the next decade and beyond. As we enter the new year, let’s take a look at five trends that define the future of nursing in the United States and beyond.
1. Demand is Increasing for Nurses in the U.S.
Graduates of nursing programs are entering a favorable job market for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% increase in nursing jobs from 2020 to 2030. It’s helpful to understand the reasons for this trend in nursing to fully appreciate the demand for new talent.
The main reason for an increase in nursing vacancies is a wave of retirements. The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey found an average age of 52 for registered nurses. Nurses aged 65 and older were 19% of the profession’s workforce with many heading toward retirement.
Retiring nurses are not the only reason we’ll need new graduates in the field. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) identified the following trends in nursing leading to a labor shortage:
- The rising average age of American patients in need of expanded care
- Not enough experienced nurses going into faculty and instructional positions
- Graduation rates for new nurses not keeping up with demand
2. Nursing Is Becoming More Global
The demand for new nurses is not evenly distributed across the United States. NurseJournal found South Carolina, Nevada, California, Texas and Georgia were the states with the fewest nurses per 1,000 people. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found similar imbalances in the nursing workforce around the world.
WHO’s State of the World’s Nursing 2020 report estimated the need for 5.7 million additional nurses by 2030. Forty-three percent of new nurses are projected to come from the Americas with demand expected in every region. Nurses open to working abroad — even in temporary roles — would help meet goals including:
- Ensuring universal health access
- Providing health care during emergencies and epidemics
- Fostering healthy behaviors and preventative care
This report found that one in eight nurses works in a country different from where they were educated. Nurses also traveled to other states and regions early in the COVID-19 pandemic to deal with overwhelmed emergency rooms. The future of nursing improves responsiveness to health care demands with traveling nurses and other flexible arrangements.
3. Technological Skills For Nurses Are More Important than Ever
The daily work of nurses has changed in the 21st century thanks to technological advances. Nurses are not only users of new medical technologies; they are integral to developing these innovations. Nursing technology expert Whende Carroll explained this trend in nursing in the Online Journal of Nursing Informatics:
“Along with their unique and valuable knowledge and abilities to tackle these challenging health care objectives, nurses serve as crucial change agents in the creation and application of technological functionality that bridge the delivery of health care and social needs in both urban and rural communities.”
A 2021 survey conducted jointly by Wolters Kuler and the National League for Nursing identified technologies and innovations that are anticipated to be widely adopted by nurse educators in their programs over the next five years. We can expect the future of nursing to include the adoption of educational technology in the following areas:
- Virtual Reality (39%)
- ePortfolios (35%)
- Mobile apps (33%)
- Video capture software (32%)
- Integrated digital curriculums (16%)
Telehealth services became essential during COVID-19 as precautions prevented in-person appointments. McKinsey & Company found a 38-fold increase in telehealth visits when comparing February 2020 to February 2021. Continued improvements in video conferencing and telemedicine platforms will simplify virtual visits for patients, nurses and doctors.
4. Advanced Nursing Specializations Will Present New Opportunities
The medical profession encompasses hundreds of specialized jobs and tasks in need of highly trained practitioners. Nurses learn how to address the full spectrum of health care needs when earning their nursing degrees. Advanced certification and work experience help nurses find areas of interest that match their professional goals.
Johnson & Johnson identified 96 specializations available to nurses with the right training. The company lists nine concentrations with high levels of demand including:
- Hospice Care
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Practitioner
- Oncology Nursing
- Surgical Nursing
Nurses open future career opportunities by gaining experience in two or more specializations. Experienced professionals may also move from area to area during their careers based on demand and interest. There will also be new subsets of the nursing profession that emerge in response to patient needs and new health challenges.
5. Employers Are Seeking Nurses with Higher Education Levels
Health care providers have offered multiple entry points into the nursing profession based on educational achievement. Entry-level positions are filled by diploma and associate degree holders, while advanced positions require undergraduate and graduate degrees. We are seeing a trend in nursing toward higher levels of education across all jobs, and online nursing degree programs are making it easier than ever to earn these qualifications.
The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey confirmed this trend when comparing results with its 2013 survey. The bachelor’s degree was the highest level of education for 65.2% of registered nurses, a 7.8% increase from the 2013 survey. The survey also found:
- 72.6% of nurses aged 65 or older had vocational certificates or diplomas as first degrees
- A 7.5% decrease in respondents with diplomas or associate degrees for initial licenses
- 13.5% of registered nurses aged 34 and younger had bachelor’s degrees as first degrees
These statistics show a slow but steady increase in educational levels for new nurses. This trend in nursing stems from increasing specialization and expanded responsibilities in clinical environments. A high-quality nursing degree focused on the future of the profession keeps a nurse ahead of the curve.
Train for the Future of Nursing at Elmhurst University
Your future in the nursing profession looks brighter with an Elmhurst University degree, including the online Accelerated BSN and the Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice. Each program offers 100% online classwork with local clinical placements provided and a short on-campus residency that emphasizes clinical experiences overseen by experienced faculty members.
Elmhurst University graduates across all programs benefit from its reputation for educational excellence. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University No. 12 in Best Undergraduate Teaching in the Midwest. The publication placed Elmhurst among regional leaders in the following categories:
- No. 17 in Best Value Schools
- No. 17 in Regional Universities Midwest
- No. 22 in Best Colleges for Veterans
Explore all that Elmhurst University’s online nursing programs have to offer.