The role of nurses in modern healthcare is different than it was just a few years ago. Nurses are expected to perform more tasks than ever and to accomplish this at facilities with less staff than is ideal.
A large population of aging people, combined with the lifestyle-related diseases prevalent in modern times, means that the demand for experienced nurses will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Nurses who want to continue to grow their careers are in a unique position historically. Not only is there a shortage of medical workers, but there is also an even bigger shortage of highly experienced nurses due to so many reaching retirement age. Here are just a few of the opportunities nurses can take advantage of.
Earning an advanced degree
In the past, nurses would need to attend classes in person, making it difficult or impossible for them to continue working while studying. Online education has changed all that. Now any nurse that meets admissions requirements can earn an advanced degree while working full-time. This is also great for the medical industry because it does not take a nurse out of the workforce during a time of great need.
Earning an advanced degree prepares you for leadership in nursing roles available to advanced practice nurses. Elmhurst University offers a variety of advanced nursing degrees that will give you the skills required to lead departments at medical facilities.
Perhaps there are some areas of medicine that you are particularly passionate about. Nurses now have increased opportunities to specialize in an area they are interested in pursuing in depth. Even some of the specialties that were once extremely hard and competitive for nurses to find a career in are now in great need. Specialties to consider are listed below.
- Diabetic care
- Neonatal medicine
- Mental health
Advanced diagnostics and treatments allow one nurse to do more
Medical science has come a long way. Nurses now have access to diagnostic equipment, instruments, and tools that were just a dream not too long ago. These tools allow nurses to do things that, if even possible years ago, required a whole team of professionals to accomplish. And even then, they would’ve needed considerable time to do so.
Having medical records stored on computers has saved nurses a lot of time when treating patients. Electronic medical records prevent mistakes and provide an open line of updates and communication among other staff and doctors.
Teaching and training others
Future and current nurses need strong leaders to teach them new skills and encourage excellence in the workplace. Nursing colleges, community colleges, public and private universities, and more all need nurses with the skills and education to teach classes. If you love nursing but have always wanted to teach, now is a great time to consider taking on a teaching role, even if it is just part-time.
Online education also means that some classes can be taught virtually. Hospitals and other large medical facilities and care centers also sometimes require private seminars and instruction for staff as well. There may be some teaching opportunities at the place you currently work.
Traveling nurse opportunities
Some nurses decide that they would like to experience working in different areas. Many nurses enjoy a career traveling and working at various medical facilities that need extra staff. This is a common way for facilities to fill important positions while finding a permanent person to fill the position. There may also be times when there is simply a greater need for staff, or they need a skilled person to fill the role for a short period of time.
Traveling nurse opportunities are great for those who need a change and are not ready to make the leap into a permanent position.
There are opportunities in hospital administration for nursing leaders. This is a good career path for mid-career and senior-level nurses who want to have a major influence in the decision-making process and lead the way toward providing even better care.
Administrative positions often provide a standard working schedule that can be a nice change from working irregular shifts. While administrators may still spend some time on the floor at a medical facility, they will spend more time in meetings and at a desk.
Elder care and assisted living
With a large aging population comes a demand for elder care and assisted living centers. In the future, there will be more of these communities to fill an increasing need. As a result, there will be many opportunities for nurses in elder care and assisted living.
There will also be a demand for home health workers to help with the medical needs of the elderly who can still live at home with minimal assistance.
Of course, there are always challenges in a field as complicated and fast-paced as modern medicine. Luckily, nurses and nursing leaders are well-suited to meeting these challenges. No challenge is without solutions; however, some challenges will take a lot of time to overcome because they are industry-wide issues.
- Lack of staff
A lot of industries are facing an ongoing labor crisis. There are many reasons for this that run deep in modern society. In the medical community, many experienced people have retired or chosen a different career path after decades in the medical industry. Wanting a change during the golden years is a common reason.
Others want to spend more time with family. Aging-related issues also affect highly experienced medical personnel. A health issue or condition that prevents them from doing their job well or at all may force retirement on some that truly love their job. COVID-19 led to some retirements and showcased how understaffed some medical facilities were and how severe the effects of this could be during a major health crisis.
Hospitals and other facilities are taking action and creating lucrative incentive packages to fill critical job roles. Expanding advertising and recruiting across the country allows facilities to pull from a large pool of talented applicants. As a nurse looking to advance your career, you can find a well-paid advanced position in almost any location.
- Language and cultural barriers
With many areas becoming more diverse than ever, it can be challenging for nurses to communicate with patients and their families if they speak other languages. Access to better interpretation equipment or having some staff members who are fluent in increasingly common languages is helpful but does not solve everything.
Cultural and religious customs can make some medical procedures or treatments out of reach. This can be frustrating for a medical professional who took an oath to offer the best care possible. Observing customs and respecting medical choices that are within the patients’ rights is something all nurses will have to do at times, even if they have strong objections.
- Healthcare costs
There is no denying that healthcare costs are on the rise. Nurses will need to find ways to offer a high level of care while keeping costs low where they can. There will be a greater emphasis on preventative care in the future.
Nurses will have to counsel patients more on the value of preventative visits and care. This means talking to hesitant patients and explaining the costs versus the benefits. Most insurance plans cover all or most of the cost of preventative visits. At most, a patient will have a small co-pay per visit. With insurance companies realizing that preventative care also works to their benefit, there is likely to be no additional cost.
Nurses will also need to help patients find resources to help them reach appointments. More and more seniors are living alone if they can live without significant assistance. Finding good transportation is more of a problem for some than it once was. Finding an affordable way for patients to make appointments is just one example of the expanded role advanced practice nurses are facing.
Telemedicine is becoming more popular with healthcare providers for some basic check-ins and appointments. Nurses will be utilizing telemedicine more in the future to reduce the cost of care and see more patients in a shorter time.
- An aging population
There is a very large aging population in North America, but it is also a problem in many other countries, including China and Japan. With people having fewer children on average, there are fewer younger workers to enter the healthcare industry and help care for the larger older generation.
This means the medical industry will have to find ways to treat more patients with fewer staff members and, in some cases, fewer resources. This is another area where preventative care and patient empowerment will come into play.
Nursing leaders will need to pave the way towards empowering patients to take charge of their health and attempt to improve their diet and lifestyle. Getting regular exercise and eating healthier are two of the most fundamental changes that can help people avoid more significant health issues or at least reduce how much underlying conditions affect their lives.
- Mental health and substance abuse
Unfortunately, there has been a drastic decline in overall mental health. Economic conditions combined with a pandemic have exacerbated many mental health issues. This means the medical industry must be prepared to handle the mental healthcare needs of more people. Mental health can have a major effect on physical health and well-being. The demand for mental health nurses will continue to be a specialty that provides many job opportunities for mid-career and senior-level nurses.
Substance abuse is another problem that shows no signs of going away or even reducing in the near future. Medical professionals must find ways to treat patients with severe substance abuse problems. This is often accompanied by mental health issues.
Diagnosing and treating such complex and multi-tiered health issues is challenging, but the medical community is learning more about how to handle these issues with compassion.
Nurses care a lot about others, or they would not have chosen to go into medicine. That level of compassion and striving to help others can lead to neglecting their own mental and physical health. Nurses and nurse leaders need to be aware of the importance of self-care.
Burnout can happen to anyone in any job, but it is far more common in nursing. Nurses feel pressure to work more hours to make up for the lack of staffing or because they feel personally responsible if someone does not receive care promptly enough.
Nurse leaders should encourage their team members to take charge of their mental and physical health. Suggesting reasonable ways to relax even during the workday can help. Break times can provide a few minutes for meditation or doing something else that is relaxing.
Eating well and exercising lead to better physical health, more energy, and a positive impact on mental health.
Advanced practice nurses have many great opportunities in today’s job market. In modern medicine, there is room for amazing career growth and job satisfaction for motivated and highly skilled medical personnel. The opportunity to continue advanced medical training while maintaining a full-time job makes career advancement and specialization accessible to those that would not be able to do so normally.
Although there are some formidable challenges that nursing leaders face, with their experience and skills, they will be able to overcome them and make a huge difference in medicine.
Now is a great time for healthcare professionals to take the next step in their careers.