While at its core, nursing is still about people helping people, constant changes in practice, technology, and faculty are having profound effects on how nurses are being formed today and how they will be formed tomorrow. Technological advancements, both on the ground and in education, are pushing nurses to be more well-rounded than ever. It’s also making a difference in how nurses go about continuous development and education. That’s why it’s important for healthcare administrators and professionals to stay abreast of these changes and start working on solutions. Let’s take a look at a few trends to watch out for in nursing education.
The Rise of Online Learning
Nurses with online credentials are not an oddity anymore, and we can expect this to become more and more common in the future. This is probably the most important among all nursing trends and will have a huge impact on what it means to get a nursing degree.
Online classes allow working nurses to get additional credentials without leaving their positions. They can take classes on their schedule and stretch them if they want to make the workload easier. These classes also allow them to get their credentials much faster than traditional courses as well. Online learning is just as extensive as traditional classes and is highly respected by employers.
Online colleges could also pick up some of the slack from traditional faculties. The lack of faculty is just as serious as the lack of nurses, and it plays a central role in it. One of the solutions that have been tabled is giving more importance to online learning. Here are some of the reasons online classes are becoming increasingly popular:
- Rigorous coursework
- Easy access to faculty
- Highly interactive classes
- No need for relocation
- No need for commute or campus fees
When asked why he likes online nursing programs, James Gregory, who now works as a gerontological acute care nurse, said that flexibility was what he liked the most. He also liked how extensive the program was.
“It was very different, but very challenging,” he said. “It wasn’t like the days when I had to get to class at 8 in the morning or 10:15, but it was the same expectations.”
And this is why most institutions will hold these degrees in as high regard as any other, as long as it comes from a reputable and accredited institution.
“I think the majority of employers are accepting of them,” said James Kineer, VP of People and Organizational Development at a Pennsylvania regional medical center. “Most will look at the total package when choosing candidates. They care more about skills and the ability to actually perform more than whether a class was taken online or offline.”
Not to mention that the credentials are in every single way identical to any other program. This is why school reputation and accreditation is essential to the recognition of the degree.
Changing Demographics and a Need for Diversity
Demographic shifts are having a major effect on the practice of nursing, and healthcare priorities. It is also putting pressure at the bottom as more nurses are starting to leave the profession.
This shift is also being felt at the faculty level. Senior instructors are leaving, and there is a shortage of nurses with the experience and credentials to fill the role. Compounding the issue is the fact that current shortages in faculty leave thousands of qualified nurses out of the pipeline.
Another challenge is the higher life expectancy of patients dealing with chronic disease. Not to mention the increasing diversity in population, which demands more diversity and cultural training.
On the bright side, student demographics show improvement in diversity among students. Racial and ethnic diversity in nursing schools has greatly increased, which also creates a richer learning environment. A lot of older, more experienced nurses are going back to school, bringing years of on the field experience with them.
The Educated Consumer Era
Information technology has also greatly democratized healthcare education, and professionals now have to deal with consumers who are more educated than before. This affects the sector in many ways, including:
- Patients are now demanding specific treatments
- Patients are more active in health care management and decision making
- Consumers are more knowledgeable about disease prevention
- Greater need for ethics training
- Need for nurses who can work and advise patients based on their needs and concerns
In other words, the consumer of tomorrow will no longer be passive and will be willing to challenge treatment solutions. Practitioners will need to be able to address their concerns while respecting and being willing to contemplate other options.
The Effect of Globalization
Globalization is having a profound impact on public health. The “death of distance” brings with it a lot of challenges, but a lot of opportunities as well.
People are traveling now more than ever, which makes the spread of diseases on a global level a very real threat. On the other hand, it also allows healthcare professionals to work together from anywhere in the globe and exchange ideas.
Nursing science will need to concentrate more on re-emerging or emerging infections resulting from globalization. Nursing research and education need to be more global in scope and benefit from knowledge transfer and the multicultural experience.
Care for Cost
Cost and risk management will also become a pressing issue as more pressure will be put on healthcare facilities due to population and staffing shifts. We can expect more focus to be put on managed care. The nurses of tomorrow will not only need to have a greater understanding of practice methods that will be able to respond to clinical complexity and improve quality but manage costs as well.
These are but a few of the online education trends that will reshape the future of the field. One thing is for sure, however, and that is that more pressure will be put on faculty to produce nurses that can tackle the challenges of tomorrow, are well rounded, and have cross-disciplinary knowledge.