Whether you’re earning an associate’s degree or a doctorate, it’s important that you keep an eye on the latest changes expected in the field of nursing to prepare for your future career. The 21st century has already brought about revolutionary changes to the nursing workforce. Nurses have played a prominent role in redesigning the delivery of medical treatment for our aging baby boomer population. After the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, millions more Americans gained access to high-quality healthcare. As a result, our nation’s evolving healthcare system will continue impacting the nursing profession into the coming decades. In this article, we’ll look at the biggest changes facing nurses today.

Critical Nursing Shortage

The United States is poised to experience a critical shortage of registered nurses as the number of older adults grows. According to the BLS, around 526,800 new jobs will be created for registered nurses through 2022. It’s estimated that the number of RNs will have to grow from 2.71 million to 3.24 million to handle the increased demand for healthcare services. Even though more nurses are graduating every year, the American Hospital Association (AHA) reports that there are 135,000 RN vacancies nationwide. The shortage will likely become dire because over 55 percent of today’s registered nurses are age 50 or older.

New Medical Technologies

In our digital world, it’s no surprise that new medical technologies are quickly being discovered to streamline nursing care and improve patient safety. Nurses can expect an explosion of high-tech systems in their healthcare facilities. New cutting-edge medical devices are beneficial because they’re precise, cost-effective, and equipped to save lives. For instance, some hospitals are introducing robots into the operating room for computer-assisted surgery. Robots are still primitive, so they won’t be taking any nurse’s job quite yet. But, registered nurses should sharpen their technical skills because technology can significantly enhance their career.

Stricter Education Requirements

Traditionally, there have been three routes for students to successfully become licensed RNs. It was acceptable for registered nurses to graduate with a hospital-based diploma, two-year associate’s degree, or four-year bachelor’s degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will become the minimum educational requirement for professional RN practice. It’s believed that having the well-rounded BSN will equip nurses with the decision-making skills to practice in all health settings. More than 12,000 RNs are returning to school annually to earn bachelor’s degrees. Similar talks have occurred for making a doctorate the minimum requirement for advanced practice nursing (APRN).

For more information on RN-BSN programs, please see: 30 Best Affordable RN-BSN Degrees.

Greater Emphasis on Nursing Leadership

Based on a study from the American Hospital Association (AHA), only six percent of hospital board members are nursing professionals. This will likely be changing though. Nurses bring a critical viewpoint to the management of healthcare services and policy changes. It’s expected that more nurses will move into leadership roles for overseeing improvement in healthcare quality, safety, and access. There will be a stronger demand for nurses with a background in public health and public policy to take over upper-level appointments to hospital boards.

Overall, nursing will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future as our country strives to improve the healthcare services given to patients. Staying abreast of the latest changes will make certain you master the skills needed to cope with them. Now that you know the changes expected in the field of nursing, you possess the knowledge to start forging your way in this challenging, yet richly rewarding, profession.