It is difficult to imagine a profession that has not evolved over the last few decades due to technological progress, changing customer expectations, changing social, economic, and cultural factors, and growing competition. The nursing profession has been no different and nurses are now not only expected to develop technical expertise but also soft skills such as leadership, communication, and analytical skills. Gone are the days when professional nurses primarily performed supporting tasks. Now nurses play an active role in advancing the overall interests of their patients as well as improving the operations of their respective employers.
Nurses now spend less time with patients. One of the reasons is the replacement of many functions traditionally done by nurses with technology. It is estimated that nurses now spend 40 percent less time on direct patient care because technology can be customized to perform function such as monitor patients’ progress, smart beds that detect blood flow, and patient vests that collect physiologic data and transmit it to a healthcare personnel’s PDA (Saver).
Nurses are now also expected to play greater roles besides providing patient care. More and more healthcare organizations are now focusing on operating efficiency and nurses are being asked to display leadership and help design how healthcare is delivered. They are also being given more autonomy to use their creative potential to help improve operations as well as healthcare quality (Green).
Nurses are now also expected to be technology proficient because information technology has deeply penetrated the healthcare business model. The use of information technology in the nursing profession, also referred to as nursing informatics, is helping nurses improve storage, organization, accessing, and processing patients’ data (Guenther). As a result, human-errors have reduced and healthcare quality has improved because diagnostics can be made quickly and more accurately. In addition, the data can also be quickly shared with other players in the healthcare delivery system.
Nurses are now also expected to possess greater social and cross-cultural skills because population demographics have been changing. In addition, almost all countries, specifically the developed nations are faced with the aging population dilemma. This also creates challenges for nurses because different generations may have different communication styles, beliefs, and values. Nurses are not only expected to be proficient in verbal communication but also non-verbal communication because some cultures involve extensive use of non-verbal communication. Nurses are expected to increase their cross-cultural knowledge because the quality of healthcare also depends upon how well the nurses understand the background of the patient (Hill and Howlett). International opportunities for nurses have also been growing and more and more nurses will pursue employment opportunities abroad. Thus, the importance of acquiring cross-cultural skills will continue to grow because it will significantly improve career prospects and performance of nursing professionals.
The workplace environment for nurses has also been changing because of changing patients’ lifestyles and preferences. More and more nurses are now providing patient care services in non-healthcare facility environment because many patients now prefer the comfort of home over hospitals. In addition to workplace environment, nurses’ job descriptions have also been evolving. There is now growing emphases on preventative care (Bureau of Labor Statistics) because it not only improves the quality of life for patients but also reduces healthcare costs.
The nursing profession has been going through tremendous transformation because patients’ profiles and lifestyles have changed. In addition, technology has also deeply penetrated the nursing profession because it is not only helping nurses do their jobs better but also helping healthcare organizations improve their operating efficiency, resource utilization, and profitability.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Outlook. 5 October 2013
- Green, Esther. Practice: What Should Change in Nursing Practice Over the Next Five Years? 5 October 2013 http://www.longwoods.com
- Guenther, Johanna T. “Mapping the literature of nursing informatics.” Journal of the Medical Library Association April 2006: E92-E98.
- Hill, Signe S. and Helen Stephens Howlett. “Cultural Uniqueness, Sensitivity, and Competence.” Success in Practical/Vocational Nursing: From Student to Leader. Saunders, n.d. 527.
- Saver, Cynthia L. “Nursing – today and beyond.” American Nurse Today October 2006.