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How Nursing Practice Has Changed in Over the Years


Nursing is widely accepted as one of the most important professions in healthcare. Nurses are patient-facing, meaning they are the first people you are likely to see when you visit a hospital. They are also the backbone of our healthcare systems, and they play a massive role in the development of healthcare and treatment solutions. Although many nurses still work in similar environments to the ones they used to in past decades, there have been a lot of changes in the field, particularly in nursing practice and education. There are also many changes coming to the profession in the future. This article will examine changes that have occurred in the field in the past and see which trends will keep impacting the profession into the future.

Changes in Education

As changes in nursing practice pointed to the inevitability of changing the way nurses are educated, nursing programs had to adjust how nursing is practiced. This led to a demand for highly educated nurses, and this led to the development of the Associate’s Nursing Degree. Although this degree has been popular for decades, its popularity and marketability are fading in favor of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

Nurses who want to go even further also have the option of enrolling in a master's or doctorate-level degree in nursing and various nursing specializations. Many of these advanced degrees have led to numerous opportunities in consulting, research, and academia.

Postgraduate degrees are offered by accredited schools and are ideal for nurses who want to meet the rigorous academic, skill, and experience requirements of advanced nursing positions.

Many of these advanced degree programs cater to the needs of working nurses by allowing nurses to complete their degrees online. This means that a nurse can continue working while pursuing a Masters of Science in Nursing, graduate, and start their own practice. This is something that was not available to nurses 50 or even 30 years ago in some places.

New Nursing Specializations

There are so many new nursing specializations that have come to the fore in the last few years. These include specializations based on age groups, where nurses work, the communities they deal with, and the patient issues they focus on. For example, geriatric nurses deal with senior patients, community health nurses work directly with communities and psychiatric nurses deal with patients suffering from various mental illnesses or patients with various psychiatric needs.

As the nursing shortage keeps growing, nurses will be required to specialize in many other areas so they can perform more tasks at once. We are already seeing this with family nurse practitioners who deal with patients of all ages, different types of communities, and patients with varied needs.


No industry can ignore technology, and healthcare is one industry that has seen and benefited from an increase in the use of technology and technological advancements. In nursing, patient records have shifted from clunky filing cabinet systems to digital systems. This has increased the reliability of these records. It is harder to make mistakes when using digital records and they have improved access to the correct records by all healthcare professionals.

There have also been advancements in other areas such as patient monitoring, wearable technology, smart beds, and apps that now help nurses do their jobs better and make their jobs easier, too.

The technological penetration into healthcare has also led to the need for nurse training to fully take advantage of these developments, with new nursing programs even incorporating training that helps new nurses get up to speed on these emerging tools even before they start practicing.

Changing Healthcare Provision Channels

Telemedicine is not an emerging technology that nurses should be up to date on, but it is changing the way patients receive care especially in intensive care units. ICUs with increased telemonitoring see increased efficiency in the monitoring of various patient needs and states, including unstable physiological statuses, vital signs, and medical management. Telemedicine is also helping enhance patient safety, preventing falls and injuries in the wards, and detecting arrhythmias and other serious patient complications.

Another reason why Telemedicine is one of the most significant technological additions to nursing and healthcare as a whole is that it enables nurses to fill healthcare voids. This is especially true in remote and rural areas that previously had little to no access to healthcare. The ability to consult with nurse specialists regardless of where a patient might be located ensures they get the right treatment and care promptly. This has also helped nurses keep doing their best work without having to be transferred many miles away.

Increasing Emphasis on Evidence-Based Practice

As more healthcare institutions transition to patient-based care, there has been a lot of increasing emphasis on evidence-based care. Evidence-based care integrates research evidence, nurses’ clinical experience, and expertise as well as patient references to ensure patients receive the best care possible. By encouraging a problem-solving approach to nursing care, evidence-based practices encouraged the provision of individualized healthcare, and this is what leads to better patient outcomes.

There are many benefits associated with evidence-based nursing practice including improved patient safety, better outcomes, lower mortality, reduced strain on healthcare systems due to a decrease in healthcare utilization, and reduced cost for both patients and healthcare institutions.

Leadership Roles

Nurses used to be viewed as physicians’ helpers. Nurses are now much more respected, with the expectations placed upon them, their responsibilities, as well as their roles changing alongside the positions they now hold.

Nurses are now highly regarded as primary players in healthcare, doing their part to form treatment strategies, ensure the health of the communities they serve in, run their practices, advocate for patients, and play a role in formulating regulations that govern patient care.

Additionally, nurses are playing a crucial role in addressing the nursing shortage plaguing the world. Advanced nursing practitioners are at the forefront of the change to patient-centered care as well as teaching and mentoring future nurses.

Additional Responsibilities

In addition to their primary roles as health care providers, nurses now have responsibilities they did not have before. In the past two decades or so, there has been a shift to nurses doing community health screening, individual patient screenings and even getting involved in preventative care. All of these have changed not only how nurses work, but also how they interact with their patients.

Nurses are involved in medication management where they are helping patients learn the best way to take their medications. A good example is patients with chronic illnesses who need daily injections. Nurses can teach family members to do these injections instead of having their loved ones visit the hospital.

Career Opportunities Outside Traditional Healthcare Settings

In the past, nurses were expected to practice in healthcare facilities and under the supervision of senior nurses and physicians. With advanced degrees and specializations, nurses now have many more career opportunities outside the hospital. Think about the family nurse practitioner who can open their practice or the travel nurse who can work anywhere in the world as long as they have the right credentials.

Nurses are also working in hospital-like settings outside the hospital. Assisted care living and nursing homes have grown in popularity over the past few years, and all these facilities need qualified, registered, specialized nurses to take care of their residents. Even though much of what nurses do at these facilities is similar to what they would do in a hospital care setting, it is an additional career opportunity that nurses now have that they did not have in the past.

There are also increasing opportunities for full career autonomy. Depending on where a nurse practices, they are allowed to work with the same autonomy as a physician. In their roles as nurse practitioners, they can administer drugs, make diagnoses, run tests, and much more. This level of autonomy has not only opened additional career doors for nurses but has also helped bring healthcare closer to the masses.

Going Beyond Healthcare

Nurses, especially those who hold advanced degrees, now have the opportunity to work completely outside healthcare. For example, nurses can complete business degrees and management classes that help them go beyond where they could with a master’s degree.

Many nurses are also working in record keeping, device manufacturing companies, research companies, as patient advocates, and as school nurses. This has led to diversified career opportunities in addition to better career satisfaction among nurses looking to take charge of their careers.

Even though nursing continues to be an integral part of healthcare, both nursing practice and education have changed in the past few decades. Many of these changes can be attributed to education and training, as well as technology. Better education has led to complex and specialized nursing roles, with the same education helping nurses transition to patient-centered care. Technology is helping make nurses’ jobs easier, helping them work anywhere, and helping them take healthcare to areas that desperately need it without moving many miles away. Indeed, nursing will continue to change, and it seems these changes will benefit both nurses and the patients they are for.








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