Nurses are an unstoppable force, an integral element of any functioning and caring society. There are around 450,000 registered nurses in Australia, making them our largest clinical workforce.
Nurses are the heroes of our healthcare system, helping people everywhere without fear or favour. Their resilience and empathy are essential to our wellbeing, and in recent times COVID-19 has placed their work under the spotlight.
Whereas the profession may have been taken for granted in other eras, today there’s no denying nursing’s importance. Recent surveys classed nurses as Australia’s most trusted profession throughout the pandemic.
With that attention comes an array of new opportunities, empowering responsibilities and increased potential. Plus, plenty of jobs to be filled.
If you’re up for the challenge, then specialisation is critical, plus a willingness to explore other disciplines. A third essential ingredient is the ability to embrace technological progress.
So, let’s explore the pathways available to the nurse of the future.
Trends in nursing
Even before COVID-19, nurses were in high demand. Australia’s ageing population has placed pressure on the profession to keep up. Added to that, chronic illness, including diabetes, adds complexity to care across the lifespan.
According to current trends, our older generation, aged 65 and above, will double by 2057. Meanwhile, by 2025, Australia faces a shortage of 100,000 nurses, increasing to over 123,000 by 2030. That means increased demand for nurses and caregivers with a speciality in chronic disease or geriatrics.
Advanced nursing specialists and family nurse practitioners are also needed. They’re a crucial element in Australia’s healthcare system, especially in rural areas, where there’s a doctor shortage. An increase in family nurse practitioners, licensed to practice with full autonomy, helps meet the demand for primary care physicians.
Then there’s the younger generations.
Studies show millennials prefer a more holistic and preventive approach to medicine, and holistic care is becoming more common in nursing. Holistic care treats the whole person—body, mind, spirit—with a focus on long-term health.
For the nurse of the future, that could mean combining patient medication with recommendations for counselling and physical therapy.
Technology meets nursing
Whatever the generation under care, nurses will need to be technologically savvy when treating them. In healthcare, technology saves lives, with each new, better system improving patient care. In today’s digital era, the potential is unlimited.
Telehealth has transformed modern nursing. Primary care clinics use patient portals to provide quick, convenient access to personal health information. Patient portals allow healthcare workers to upload lab results to secure sites and apps for patients to see, alongside prescriptions and other records. Patients use the portal to ask questions, make follow-up appointments and request prescription refills.
Other exciting telehealth developments include scheduled reminders for patients to take medication, apps to manage diabetes through carb-counting and glucose tracking, and mobile monitors for patients with pacemakers or sleep apnoea.
Data and analysis are set to play a crucial role in managing patient care. Trackers, sensors and artificial intelligence will gather medical information in real time, analysing it and administering treatment on the go.
Augmented reality, virtual reality and holographic technologies will revolutionise medicine and healthcare practice. Doctors and nurses can expect realistic medical and surgical simulations. These will help them to fulfill their roles with unprecedented levels of accuracy, while easing the minds of patients about to undergo medical procedures.
Behind the scenes, digital technology can alleviate the pressurised, frenetic nature of hospital environments by scheduling staffing shifts and patient care with greater ease and precision. That alleviates the burden on nurses, creating peace of mind for patients.
The future nurse
In healthcare, technology not only affects the interface of medical practice, but it also changes the way we study. The obvious indicator is the rise of online programs, with numerous options available for would-be and current nurses. So many excellent universities offer quality nursing programs, making online learning an attractive way for working professionals with busy schedules to earn a degree.
Other ways the profession is changing include more diversity in gender. Society is gradually moving away from the idea that nursing is strictly a woman’s career, and, in Australia, the number of men in the field has grown to 12 percent—an improvement that continues to climb.
That number will only grow. Nursing is a stimulating career that requires hard work and dedication, whatever the gender.
Specialisation is another growing trend in nursing. It’s partly a result of the ways technology is transforming the profession, as well as increasingly diverse demands on nursing as the makeup of society changes, such as the impact of ageing populations and the emergence of new and virulent viruses.
There are many specialties available, including: acute care, diabetes management, mental health, child health, perioperative, chronic disease, nurse education, burns, cardiology, occupational health, and more.
With a myriad to choose from and a bright outlook, you can take the next step in your career, whether it’s a Master of Nursing or a number of other postgraduate nursing courses.
Your specialisation could also lead to a higher salary—especially if it’s in high demand.
Build your skills to shape the future
With all that on offer, let’s now reflect on the critical qualities and skills you’ll need to achieve your potential in nursing.
First up, continuous education is key. Aim to be an expert in your specialisation, while also sharing knowledge with, and absorbing information from, colleagues working in other facets of healthcare.
There are many opportunities to advance your career in nursing, so always keep an eye on new directions.
- Be reflective and self-aware, and incorporate the ideal of continuous learning into your practice.
- Be curious and motivated. Gain the skills you need to manage a team, generate real change and improve patient outcomes.
- Develop and lead projects, demonstrate effective people management, build a strategic awareness of national and international healthcare trends, and maintain an innovative and open mind.
- Be an early adopter of technology. Create change by mastering technology’s central role in healthcare, while keeping up with new trends and directions in nursing.
- Be collaborative and pass on what you know, while learning from others in your team. After all, effective nursing relies on open and transparent teamwork.
- Equip yourself with these skills, and you’ll be well placed to embrace the future potential of nursing.
Choosing a nursing course
Explore postgraduate nursing degrees to find the one that suits your aspirations and needs.