The Transformation of 21st-Century Nursing and Its Impacts on Care

Nursing practice, education and research have all undergone significant transformations in the last decade, especially since the turn of the 21st century. This evolving approach to nursing has profoundly impacted care delivery and patient outcomes and will likely inform practice improvements in the future.

Graduates of Radford University’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program are equipped with the necessary skills to drive the field’s transformation using skills in health communication, research, information technology and more.

To drive growth, nurses must be aware of the recent, modern changes that have impacted the field. From supporting diverse patient populations to stepping into leadership roles, here are some ways nursing has changed over the years and improved patient care.

More Nurses Must Care for an Older, More Diverse Population

Thanks to advances in preventive care, technology and public health education, people live longer but often must manage chronic conditions for years or even decades. Practicing nurses today will see an older population that is more racially and culturally diverse, so they need to deliver more complex and culturally competent care. As reported by Lumen Learning, some eye-opening U.S. population projections demonstrate this point:

  • By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 and older.
  • By 2044, more than half of Americans will belong to a minority group.
  • By 2060, almost 20% of the population will have been born in another country.

Nurses Should Know New Educational Standards

For decades, receiving a diploma from a hospital program was sufficient to enter the field. However, as the complexity of care has risen, so have the educational requirements for nurses. As a result, most employers now strongly prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), some even require a BSN degree as a condition of employment. Coupled with recent federal funding initiatives to modernize nursing education, as outlined by Campaign for Action, new educational standards have also driven the demand for nurse educators. This presents an opportunity for BSN-prepared nurses to advance their education and move into these positions.

Nurses Are Central to Multidisciplinary Teams

Nurses have become vital contributors to multidisciplinary healthcare teams and key decision-makers, according to the World Health Organization. They are instrumental in improving the quality of care and patient outcomes, often by counseling patients on optimal behavioral changes such as medication adherence and lifestyle habits. In addition, nurses monitor patients for clinical deterioration, identify workflow issues and serve as a liaison between patients

Technology Is a Nurse’s Tool

Technology has notably affected modern nursing, creating new tools and resources that enhance patient care, improve communication and streamline processes. Digital records, telehealth, smart beds, clinical decision tools, mobile apps and wearable devices represent just a tiny fraction of emerging technologies that nurses use daily. As technology evolves, nurses should expect to incorporate them more into their nursing practice.

There Is Rising Demand for Nurse Leaders and Managers

There has been a high demand for nurses to step into leadership and management roles ever since the Institute of Medicine released its The Future of Nursing report in 2010, and the trend will probably continue, as noted by MedCrave. More often, healthcare employers are looking to nurse leaders to create sustainable organizations that are inclusive, innovative and responsive to changing market dynamics. Nurses with a mix of clinical, business and leadership skills can help organizations navigate these changes while also optimizing care.

How Can Nurses Adapt to Changes in Nursing Practice?

Nurses who remain committed to lifelong learning and professional development may find adapting to new nursing practices easier. Flexibility, a collaborative mindset and a willingness to try new technology and care delivery models will serve most nurses well.

Ultimately, nursing practice has evolved dramatically since the turn of the century and will progress more in the coming decades. Nurses looking to grow their careers should be familiar with how models of care have progressed over time, as it will help them shape their future practice. Nurses should remain adaptable to these new dynamics, open to learning new skills and focused on providing patient-centered, evidence-based, holistic care.

Radford University’s online RN to BSN program has advanced nursing courses that provide the evidence-based approach graduates need to give patients a higher level of expert care as the nursing landscape changes.

Learn more about Radford University’s RN to BSN online program.

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