Thanks to a convergence of factors like the growing physician shortage and growing nurse autonomy, some sources in the nursing profession are naming 2016-2017 as the exact right time for new RNs to join the profession. The future is bright for nurses, but individual success will depend on a number of factors. For a better idea of where nursing stands in 2017, review the following six trends driving important changes in the U.S.:
1. Aggressive recruiting of advanced practitioners
Certain organizations are linking the quality of patient services to payment. When healthcare insurance organizations, like Medicare, reimburse hospitals and doctors for the care they provide to the insured, major payers are tying together payment with quality assurance and patient satisfaction measurements.
In response, hospitals and clinics are investing in expert non-physician clinicians, increasing the demand for advanced nursing practitioners from a wide variety of specialties. As such, students who are now choosing to begin doctoral nursing studies might be making a sound investment for future job security.
2. More nursing graduates pursuing non-clinical careers
The versatility of nursing degree programs — especially DNP programs — combined with newly available positions mean that many who would previously take part in clinical practice are instead exploring alternative career paths. New BSNs and DNPs are becoming hospital administrators, health policymakers, bioinformatics analysts and college educators. Diverting potential clinicians away from the traditional path may create a higher demand for those who choose to continue with direct patient care.
3. Greater independence for non-physician clinicians in a primary care professional shortage
An ongoing trend over the last few years has been a push to grant nurse practitioners greater clinical authority. A looming physician shortage has made nurse practitioners into viable primary and preventive care alternative providers. The factors driving this shortage aren’t likely to abate anytime soon:
- An aging baby boomer population transitioning into retirement
- An increasing emphasis on preventive care
- Newly minted MDs who are opting for high-paying specialties rather than general practice
Indeed, many states now allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications and run a clinic without a physician overseeing their work, and other states are likely to soon follow suit. In this climate, nurse practitioners are positioned to undertake vital primary care roles previously held by physicians.
4. Higher potential salaries for nurses
With more responsibility often comes greater compensation. Unlike many other fields in the U.S. that have experienced ongoing wage stagnation, certain nursing jobs have seen significant increases recently. Six figures is the expected pay for in-demand clinical specialties, with 2015 data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics revealing a $101,260 mean salary for nurse practitioners. This upward trend is expected to continue in 2017 and beyond.
5. Advances in biomedical technology
While we’ve mostly focused on economic and cultural shifts in nursing, no overview of current trends in medicine would be complete without a nod to rapidly evolving technologies. This includes the continued adoption of portable medical devices, which are increasingly useful point-of-care tools. Nurses can also expect greater and more seamless integration of electronic health records into patient care, including predictive bioinformatics.
RNs can expect to take on a number of technologically sophisticated roles in this new treatment landscape. As computer-assisted surgery technologies make their way into more ORs, surgical team members will need to learn how to assist physicians in a very different environment. Likewise, further adoption of telemedicine is likely to reduce costs through virtual visits. As with in-person primary care, RNs may be acting independently without physician oversight.
6. Greater need for specialized knowledge
Recent polls have found that nearly half of American hospitals now require at least a BSN for new hires, with ADNs often no longer being enough for young nurses to start their careers. As BSNs quickly become the “gold standard” for new nurses, those with an interest in advanced nursing positions may look toward DNP programs to differentiate themselves.
The Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice at Maryville University allows students the opportunity to specialize in a variety of fields within nursing. Strengthening early careers with specialized knowledge may prove to be an advantage in a competitive near-future job market.
Big changes may be coming to nursing. Some are already here. Regardless, the best strategy for today’s RNs will almost certainly include education, whether through a formal program or by simply keeping informed on the latest medical innovations.