How nursing has evolved and what the future holds for the profession


Nursing is a constantly evolving profession, with factors such as technology and patient needs driving significant changes over time. These changes have enabled healthcare providers to become more efficient and effective, improving patient outcomes in various ways. 

Learning more about some of the most important industry developments and anticipated changes can help you understand the nature of change and progress in nursing and remain adaptive. Here is a look at how the profession has changed over time and what the future may hold for nurses. 

Changes in nursing

Changes in nursing occur for various reasons. Sometimes they are predictable; at other times, they may come as a surprise. Here are some major changes that have occurred in nursing in recent history.

  • Technological developments

Over the past few decades, nursing has undergone tremendous changes due to various technological disruptions. One of the most significant technological advancements in nursing has been the integration of electronic health records (EHRs). 

With the introduction of EHRs, nurses can now access patient information much more quickly and efficiently than in the past. This has streamlined documentation processes, eliminated the need for physical charting, and allowed nurses to spend more time with their patients. In addition, EHRs have made it easier for nurses to track patient outcomes and provide better care by identifying potential problems before they become serious.

Another major development is the use of telehealth services. Through this technology, nurses can provide care to patients in remote areas, which was previously impossible. Patients can receive care from the comfort of their homes, reducing the need for hospital visits and minimizing their risk of exposure to infectious diseases. 

Telehealth also allows nurses to monitor patients remotely, providing real-time data on vital signs, medication adherence, and other important health indicators. This technology has revolutionized the way nurses provide care and has helped improve patient outcomes while reducing healthcare costs.

  • More patient-centered approaches

In recent years, nurses have been taking a more holistic approach to care, which considers the physical, emotional, and social aspects of the patient’s health. This approach emphasizes each patient’s preferences, values, and beliefs, and it recognizes that each patient is unique. Nurses are now trained to listen to their patients, involve them in the decision-making process, and prioritize their individual needs. This has resulted in improved patient outcomes, higher levels of patient satisfaction and better healthcare experiences.

Patient and family-centered care has also made nursing more patient-oriented. This approach recognizes the importance of involving patients and their families in the care process. Nurses now collaborate with patients and their families to develop care plans that are tailored to their specific needs and preferences. 

Patients and their families are also encouraged to participate in their care, such as by providing input on treatment decisions, managing symptoms and assisting with activities of daily living. This approach has led to improved communication, increased patient satisfaction and better health outcomes. By putting the patient at the center of their care, nursing has evolved to become more patient-centered, resulting in better health outcomes and experiences for patients and their families.

  • Diversity in workforces

Nursing has made significant progress in increasing the diversity of its workforces. Historically, nursing has been a predominantly white and female profession, but efforts to diversify the nursing workforce have been underway for several decades. These efforts focus on recruiting and retaining nurses from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as attracting more men to the profession. Additionally, efforts have been made to recruit nurses from different age groups, educational backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. The result of these efforts is a more diverse nursing workforce that better reflects the communities it serves.

One way nursing has increased its diversity is through targeted recruitment efforts. Many nursing programs have implemented initiatives to increase diversity among their student body, such as offering scholarships and mentorship programs for underrepresented groups. 

Additionally, hospitals and healthcare organizations have implemented programs to recruit and retain nurses from diverse backgrounds. These programs include cultural competency training for staff, leadership development programs for underrepresented groups, and employee resource groups for nurses from different backgrounds. These efforts have led to a more diverse nursing workforce that is better equipped to provide culturally competent care to diverse patient populations.

  • Greater interprofessional collaboration

Many nursing programs now include interprofessional education in their curriculum, which involves students from different healthcare professions learning together. This approach helps to break down professional silos and encourages students to work collaboratively to provide patient-centered care. Continuing education programs for nurses often include interprofessional collaboration as a topic, providing opportunities for nurses to learn from and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.

The importance of interprofessional collaboration in nursing has also been recognized by healthcare organizations and policymakers. Many healthcare organizations have implemented interprofessional teams to provide coordinated care to patients. Policymakers have supported interprofessional collaboration by providing funding for interprofessional education programs and supporting the development of policies that promote collaboration among healthcare professionals. These efforts have equipped the healthcare system to provide better patient-centered care with improved communication and coordination among healthcare professionals, leading to improved patient outcomes.

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The nursing profession has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with significant changes in the way nurses care for patients and interact with them. Nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic response, working tirelessly to provide care and prevent the spread of the virus. They have been forced to adapt rapidly to new protocols and guidelines, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and novel infection control measures. They have also played a crucial role in educating patients and the public on ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of nurses in the healthcare system, particularly in the care of COVID-19 patients who require intensive care. Nurses have been providing critical emotional support to patients who are isolated from their loved ones due to quarantines. 

Furthermore, the pandemic has underscored the urgent need for more nurses, especially in critical care and public health. There has been a renewed interest in nursing education and recruitment. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the resilience, dedication and unwavering commitment of nurses to providing exceptional patient care under difficult circumstances.

  • Staff shortages

There is currently a high demand for healthcare professionals across the board, but the shortage of nurse practitioners is particularly concerning. Various factors have contributed to this issue, including an aging nursing workforce, limited nursing education capacity, high turnover rates and increased demand for healthcare services. Healthcare organizations have implemented various strategies to address the problem and retain nurses. In addition, institutions like Rockhurst University are offering online programs to help more people become nurses.

Healthcare organizations have implemented recruitment strategies to attract new nurses to the profession, such as by offering incentives like tuition reimbursement, sign-on bonuses and flexible scheduling. In addition, some organizations have partnered with nursing schools to offer scholarships, internships and mentorship programs to nursing students with the aim of increasing interest in the profession. These efforts have attracted more individuals to the nursing profession and are helping address the problem of staff shortages.

The future of nursing 

For those interested in pursuing a nursing career who are wondering what the future holds for the profession, here are some points to keep in mind. 

  • Trends and predictions

One of the significant trends set to impact the future of healthcare is the continuing integration of technology. Emerging technologies such as telemedicine, big data and artificial intelligence are expected to revolutionize nursing by providing new opportunities to enhance patient care, optimize workflow and improve communication with other healthcare professionals. 

Nurses are expected to develop the skills needed to work with electronic health records (EHRs) and other digital systems that store, access and share patient information securely. Some nurses may assume additional responsibilities associated with technology, such as managing remote monitoring devices and using data analysis to make informed decisions about patient care.

Another trend that is shaping the future of nursing is the shift toward patient-centered care. With healthcare systems transitioning toward value-based models, nurses must prioritize the individual needs and preferences of patients to provide personalized care. Therefore, they need to develop strong communication skills, empathy and cultural competence to establish a rapport with patients and build trust. Collaboration with other healthcare professionals, patients and families is also crucial for developing care plans that address the specific needs of each patient. Nursing education and training should include a greater emphasis on interprofessional collaboration, communication skills and patient-centered care to support this trend.

  • Challenges and opportunities 

The future of nursing presents both challenges and opportunities that are likely to shape the profession in the coming years. One of the most significant challenges is the growing demand for healthcare services, which is expected to strain the healthcare system and put pressure on nurses. The shortage of nurses is likely to increase, leading to staffing issues and burnout among nurses. Additionally, nurses will face the challenge of providing care to an increasingly diverse patient population with complex health needs. This means that nurses will need advanced skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care to diverse patient populations.

However, the future of nursing also presents significant opportunities for the profession. For example, nurses will play an increased role in healthcare delivery moving forward. They can contribute to reducing healthcare costs by providing preventive care, managing chronic diseases and promoting health and wellness. 

Furthermore, the increasing use of technology in healthcare presents opportunities for nurses to use data to inform decision-making, improve patient outcomes and streamline healthcare processes. Meanwhile, the shift toward patient-centered care provides an opportunity for nurses to work collaboratively with patients, families and other healthcare professionals to deliver care that meets the unique needs and preferences of each patient. Overall, the future of nursing presents numerous challenges and opportunities that require the profession to adapt and evolve to meet the changing healthcare landscape.

How to prepare for the future 

Here are some ways nurses can prepare for the future.

  • Commit to continuing education

To prepare for changes in the nursing profession, nurses must commit to lifelong learning. Nursing is a constantly evolving field, and new advancements, technologies and healthcare models are emerging on a regular basis. Therefore, nurses must continually update their skills and knowledge to remain relevant and effective in their practice. 

Completing continuing education programs, attending conferences, participating in online courses and pursuing advanced degrees are excellent ways for nurses to expand their knowledge base and keep up with the latest developments in their field. In addition, nurses can join professional organizations, read journals and engage in peer networking to stay up to date with the latest research, best practices and emerging trends in nursing.

Committing to continued learning enables nurses to adapt to changes in the healthcare industry quickly. It helps them become better equipped to handle emerging challenges, including new diseases, medical procedures and therapies. Additionally, nurses who continually update their skills and knowledge are more likely to take on leadership roles and contribute to shaping the future of the nursing profession. Therefore, nurses must embrace continuous learning as a critical component of their professional development. This is a lifelong journey that enables them to deliver high-quality care to patients, build their careers and make a positive impact on their profession.

  • Embrace technology

Technology is transforming the healthcare industry, and nurses must be comfortable using it to provide efficient and effective care. By using electronic health records (EHRs), nurses can quickly access patient data, record vital signs and track medication administration. Additionally, telehealth technologies allow nurses to monitor patients remotely, reducing hospital readmissions while increasing patient satisfaction. 

Furthermore, the use of mobile devices, apps and wearable technology can enable nurses to communicate and collaborate more effectively with other healthcare professionals and provide timely and accurate information to patients and their families.

Embracing technology enables nurses to provide patient-centered care and improve patient outcomes. By using technology to collect and analyze patient data, nurses can develop personalized care plans that meet the unique needs of each patient. Additionally, technology can help nurses identify potential problems earlier, leading to better outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.

Nurses who embrace technology can also stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in the job market as technology is increasingly becoming an essential part of the nursing profession. Therefore, nurses must be proactive in adopting and using technology to improve patient care, streamline workflows and advance their careers.

  • Develop skills

As healthcare continues to evolve, nurses must be adaptable so they can deliver the highest-quality care to their patients. Keeping up to date with advancements in the field, such as new technologies, treatments and procedures, is vital for nurses to develop new clinical skills. Specialized procedures, advanced therapies and diagnostic tests are a few examples of new clinical skills that nurses can acquire. Additionally, developing leadership, communication and collaboration skills can enable nurses to assume managerial roles, lead interdisciplinary teams and advocate for their patients.

By developing new skills, nurses can deliver patient-centered care that caters to the unique needs of each patient. This allows them to stay relevant and advance their careers within the nursing profession. Moreover, it enables nurses to pursue new opportunities and challenges, such as working in different healthcare settings, pursuing advanced degrees or assuming leadership roles. Therefore, nurses should prioritize their professional development by seeking out opportunities to learn new skills, staying informed with the latest trends and proactively seeking new challenges that will help them grow as nurses.

The bottom line

Nursing has undergone significant changes in recent years, from the integration of new technologies to the adoption of more patient-centered approaches to care. Looking ahead, the future of nursing presents both challenges and opportunities, and nurses must be prepared to adapt and evolve. 

By committing to learning, embracing technology and developing new skills, nurses can stay ahead of the curve, advance their careers, and deliver exceptional care. The profession is poised for continued growth, and those who prepare themselves for the future will likely thrive in this dynamic field.