US – The job outlook for registered nurses is bright, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that Registered Nurse (RN) jobs will increase by 12% from 2018 to 2028.
However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that more than 75,000 applicants were turned away from bachelor’s and graduate nursing programs in 2018, primarily due to a shortage of nurse educators.
This reduction in education opportunities could impact our healthcare system’s ability to respond to not only daily nursing needs but also the next pandemic or global crisis. Let’s examine how nursing education is projected to change due to the growing need for baccalaureate-prepared nurses and nursing educators.
MORE NURSES WILL HOLD ADVANCED DEGREES
Studies have shown that hospitals employing a higher number of nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees experienced better patient outcomes and lower costs. In The Future of Nursing, released in 2011, the Institute of Medicine recommended increasing the percentage of nurses prepared at the BSN level to 80% by 2020.
Although we are falling short of that goal, Nursing Outlook notes that progress is being made and continued changes will keep the needle moving in the right direction.
These masters and doctorate prepared nurse educators are critical to ensuring the next generation of nurses is prepared to care for a highly complex patient population, while research conducted by doctorate-level nurses is necessary to improve nursing practices and advance the profession.
MORE NURSES WILL SPECIALIZE
Nurses who specialize prepare for leadership roles and are ultimately recognized as experts in their field. Standing legislation will continue to drive initiatives such as specialization as a way to positively impact patient outcomes and costs of healthcare.
Nurses might consider one of the following areas of specialization:
Nurses who have a knack for business can take on the role of Nurse Administrator. These nurses can participate in improving healthcare and cutting costs by managing healthcare resources and assisting with the accreditation process. Nurse administrator positions require a BSN degree at a minimum.
Nurses who enjoy teaching at the college level can specialize as a Nurse Educator. A Nurse Educator ensures the highest level of education for future nurses by staying current with the latest changes to the healthcare system and training modalities.
Clinical Nurse Leadership
Nurses who are looking to stay at the bedside might consider specializing as a master’s prepared Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). This role works directly with the patient’s care team to ensure the highest quality of care and acts as a mentor to the nursing staff. CNLs can help influence patient care initiatives and ensure that best practices are followed.
ONLINE EDUCATION WILL LEAD THE WAY
Online education is a key pathway to furthering the education of nurses. Whether choosing a bridge, blended, or graduate program, online nursing programs can offer a worthwhile solution for the working nurse, students who are caring for children or other family members, or those without the financial means to afford a traditional university education.
Especially now, amidst the societal changes caused by COVID-19, online schooling may even feel like the go-to option for continued education and nursing career development.
Plus, tuition and fees for online education are generally less than the cost for brick and mortar institutions, making this option easier on the wallet. Many employers provide financial incentives — sometimes even paying for 100% of the tuition. Online education can also offer students the flexibility to fit schoolwork into their schedules.
The healthcare industry needs nurse leaders to shape not only our future nurses but also the future of healthcare. If you believe in the power of nurse leadership, consider an advanced nursing degree.