Advanced Practice Nursing

The Evolving World of Nursing: Where Is it Heading?

The Evolving World of Nursing: Where Is it Heading?
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Catherine Holland July 31, 2014

If you’re considering becoming a nurse or you’re currently a nurse, you understand that educational expectations for nurses are shifting. Here’s how and why.

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Healthcare in general, and nursing in particular are in transition. Advances in medicine and technology have increased the complexity of the care many providers give, and this is certainly true in nursing.

New discoveries, practices, and technology have increased the educational attainment levels necessary to practice even entry-level nursing. Simply put, we know more today, so we need our nurses to know more as well.

New Expectations in the Field of Nursing

Increasingly, we rely on nurses to provide more in-depth patient care than we used to. People are living longer, often with chronic or complicated health needs, making it likely that our need for highly trained nurses will continue to grow. Nurses today may also be the primary medical providers in many settings, from community health practices to retirement homes to private medical offices. In these roles, they need to have well-developed expertise to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients, as well as refer them to physicians or other specialists when necessary.

In addition, other healthcare providers, such as pharmacists and physical therapists, are now required to get doctoral degrees to practice in their fields. In light of the collaborative work called for in many healthcare settings, it’s important that nurses attain comparable educational levels.

What This Means for Nurses or Those Who Want to Become Nurses

By pursuing more advanced degrees, nurses are able to gain deeper knowledge in particular specializations. Today, nurses can pursue master’s degrees in many specialties or roles, ranging from nurse-midwifery to primary or acute care nurse practitioners. They can focus on particular population needs, such as women’s health or psychiatry and mental health. In the coming years, many graduate nursing schools will require the Doctorate of Nursing Practice in order to become a Certified Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Raising the educational attainment levels for these roles will ensure that nurses are trained at the highest practical level and that there is a growing pool of qualified professionals to teach in nursing schools. This shift will also serve to raise the pay and employment opportunities for these nurses.

Health care is a growing sector of the US economy, a trend that promises to increase in the coming decades. Nursing is at the heart of this sector, with increasing opportunities for the foreseeable future. Advances in medicine, technological developments, and longer lifespans for the population require highly educated nurses to meet these needs.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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