Nobody can completely predict the future of nursing from 2014 into the future, but trends in three key areas offer a glimpse of what lies ahead.
Nursing 2014: Demographics and Chronic Illnesses
America's population is aging, and along with age comes an alarming increase in chronic diseases. According to an American Medical Association (AMA) report, the combined impact of a flood of older adults with chronic diseases threatens a massive burden on America's health care system. Designed to treat acute illnesses, that system needs to shift its focus toward treating chronic illnesses, educating patients and caregivers and screening for better prevention. Nurses in the near future will play a critical role in these new methods of caring for patients.
A few facts for aspiring nurses to consider include:
- According to the AMA, adults 65 years and older represent the fastest growing segment in American society, and this segment is expected to reach over 40 million, or 13 percent of the nation's population.
- America's adult mortality rate (for men and women combined) ranks only 49th in the world.
- Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of American health care dollars spent, while over half of Americans have some sort of chronic disease.
- Obesity has reached epidemic levels. Over 72 million Americans are obese, and an incredible 12.5 million American children are obese.
- Over 70 percent of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many cancers. Many deaths from these diseases are preventable, and with an improvement in health literacy, prevention medicine, and diet, Americans can improve their overall health and avert a brewing personal and national crisis.
Nursing 2014: Technological Advances
Technology, medicine and nurses are close partners, and that relationship will only continue to strengthen as the nation seeks solutions to this impending health care crisis. Beginning at nursing schools and throughout their careers, nurses from 2014 onward must become skilled in digital technology. Technological advances in fields such as radiological therapies, nanotechnologies and a whole host of heart surgery techniques will open doors to unique opportunities for nurses.
A trend toward more outpatient treatments means that hospitals will house sicker patients. Nurses who like traditional bedside nursing will gravitate to those settings. Technological advancements in diagnostics and noninvasive surgeries mean that nurses will play a more active role in the use of technology at the outpatient level. Additionally, nurses already benefiting from developments in the transmission of health information will only see more advances in electronic record keeping.
Nursing 2014: Government and Health Policy
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, preventive and more holistic measures built into the law will have a beneficial effect on health care. More people will have health insurance and access to the health care system in greater numbers. Because nurses represent the front line in the provision of health care services, they will play a stronger role in formulating and tweaking government policy. In fact, nursing in the future will see the rise of an entirely new field that has nurses help specifically in the creation of government policy.