Nurses are on the front lines in the global war against disease and sickness, working to improve the lives of patients of all ages. What does the future of medicine hold for nurse practitioners looking to achieve independence and reach the highest levels of the healthcare field in a world increasingly reliant on new technology?
Population trends suggest that demand for nurse practitioners will continue to rise as baby boomers age. The development of new medicines, therapies, and drug delivery methods will disrupt all healthcare fields. For example, the future of telemedicine will transform how and where patients receive medical care, which will allow nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals to have more flexibility in their careers.
These trends indicate new opportunities will arise for nurses seeking to grow and advance in their profession. Advanced practice registered nurses can prepare for leadership roles in the future of medicine by earning a terminal degree such as Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice with Nurse Practitioner Concentration (DNP-NP).
The New Roles Nurse Practitioners Will Play in the Future of Family Medicine
Addressing the challenges facing the healthcare industry will require a concerted, coordinated effort, and nurse practitioners are seen as key contributors to that effort. In particular, the future of family medicine will provide nurse practitioners with more opportunities to improve patient care throughout the healthcare system. Nearly 50% of all credentialed nurse practitioners in the U.S. are focused on meeting the primary care needs of families, according to data from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Demand for professionals holding a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is expected to spike. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will increase 31% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the 7% average for all jobs. The employment growth for nurse practitioners is driven in large part by the need to alleviate the increasing shortage of physicians. Communities will rely more and more on DNPs with diverse backgrounds to deliver patient-centered primary care and to advocate for their patients, the nursing profession, and the entire healthcare system.
DNPs working in family medicine perform some of the duties of physicians — from diagnosis and treatment of common medical conditions to writing prescriptions. Nurse practitioners with DNP degrees also find opportunities to lead other nurses, educate future nurses, and influence health policy in hospitals and government agencies. Qualifications for becoming a licensed family nurse practitioner include earning a high-level degree, typically beyond a master’s degree. There may also be requirements such as completing a residency or internship before becoming licensed as a nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners who graduate from Maryville University’s online DNP-NP degree program can beprepared to take leadership roles in the future of family medicine. The DNP-NP curriculum includes courses in Professional Role Development, Advanced Health Assessment, and Advanced Pathophysiology. Among the specific DNP courses are Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice, Clinical Inquiry, and Organizations Theory and Systems Leadership.
Duties of DNPs Continue to Evolve and Expand
The health services field is among the fastest growing in the country: The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook forecasts a 20% increase in hiring of medical and health services managers between 2016 and 2026. This trajectory is creating new opportunities for nurses to serve in roles that include hospital administrator, systems manager in clinical settings, and legislative advocate working on policymaking in the public sector.
Nurses who earn a DNP degree have broad career options, whether they work as nurse practitioners helping patients in various healthcare settings or as administrators or advocates for community health and the healthcare industry. In all these roles, nurses holding a DNP degree benefit from their studies and training in the latest approaches to effective patient care. For example, evidence-based practice (EBP) is considered a best practice for providing high-quality patient care. Advanced nurse practitioners can leverage EBP to determine the values and preferences of their patients and provide effective care based on that evidence. These capabilities are a core component of Maryville’s online DNP-NP degree program.
Nurses with DNP degrees play key roles in executive-level decision-making processes in hospitals. They also participate in setting healthcare policy for government agencies. DNPs help prepare future nurses in academic environments through teaching and research. Specialized training, certifications, and work experience may be required to qualify for some of these positions.
Preparing for the Future of Medicine
While the future of medicine will create opportunities for career advancement for DNPs, it will also challenge all healthcare professionals. DNPs will need to adapt to these changes by staying current on healthcare trends and learning new skills.
Medical Devices Will Be ‘Printed’ to Order
One of the trends DNPs should be aware of is 3D printing. Similar to the way cellphones and other consumer products are manufactured, most medical devices and prosthetics are mass-produced in factories to lower costs. The use of 3D printing is disrupting the production of therapeutic devices by allowing for more customization. The technology can be used to create prosthetics and medical implants with a shape and size that fits the unique needs of a particular patient. The printing technology will allow DNPs to improve the quality of care they provide to patients by making custom prosthetics and implants more effective and more affordable.
While 3D printing is slightly less efficient and more costly than mass production, the custom implants and prosthetics produced by 3D printers will become more affordable as the technology is adopted across multiple fields. Researchers are working to create a future of medicine where biomaterials for organ structures and complex organs can be “printed” using similar techniques.
Disease Will Be Fought at the Genetic Level
Another technology trend in healthcare that will affect DNPs is gene therapy, which demonstrates the potential for using newly created genes and copies of existing genes to treat diseases that currently have no known cures. For example, ischemic heart disease and stroke were the leading causes of death worldwide in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Gene therapy may dramatically reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke, as explained in the journal Nature. By offering improved treatments and preventive measures for these and other deadly diseases, gene therapy promises to become one of the most important tools in the DNP’s arsenal.
Today, gene therapy is not a practical approach to treating disease because it is costly and complex. Researchers face technical challenges, such as developing mechanisms to deliver genes to specific cells. However, as more effective approaches are developed, gene therapy offers hope for prevention and treatment of heart disease, stroke, and other maladies while also offering a glimpse into the promising future of medicine.
More Patients Will Be Treated from Afar
The future of telemedicine and patient data collection will allow people to receive medical treatment from their homes or other remote locations. The technology gives DNPs and other primary care providers more flexibility in how they deliver their services. It also makes possible more personalized care for patients. Telemedicine is one of the technologies most likely to have a direct impact on the ability of DNPs to treat patients and promote public health quickly, efficiently, and affordably.
By using analytics to examine the vast amount of patient data collected by healthcare providers and other industries, DNPs can get insights that lead to improved telemedicine treatments, allowing them to identify risk factors for diseases and illnesses and to be more effective in promoting healthy lifestyles. Telemedicine platforms today are largely based on proprietary technologies, but in the future of telemedicine, the systems likely will be more platform-agnostic, making delivery of telemedicine services more cost-effective.
More Opportunities for DNPs to Lead
The growing shortage of qualified healthcare professionals needed to serve communities, especially in rural regions and inner cities, creates a wealth of opportunities for DNPs. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, only one nurse practitioner is qualified for every four available jobs nationwide. In higher education, more nursing schools are turning away academic applicants due to an increasing number of nursing faculty retiring. These and other trends are creating more opportunities for advanced nursing professionals to take leadership roles in clinical, academic, administrative, and governmental settings.
A DNP-NP degree is a practice-focused area of study that prepares graduates to help address current and projected shortages of physicians and other trained healthcare providers and to serve as leaders in the industry. The degree also helps current nurse practitioners grow professionally and have a greater impact in the healthcare sector.
If you’re a nurse looking to lead at the highest level, consider Maryville University’s online nursing degree programs to acquire the practical skills and clinical expertise necessary to impact and influence patient care in the future of medicine.