The healthcare industry navigates through a rapidly changing landscape, and nursing remains one of its constant anchors. Over the years, nurses have demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and a relentless commitment to patient care, solidifying their importance in the medical world.
Several factors, including the ongoing need for specialized care, medical technology advancement, and increased health awareness, have charged different aspects of the nursing profession to participate and meet medical challenges head-on.
It also highlights the differences between a nurse practitioner vs. registered nurse, giving nursing enthusiasts diverse career options to choose from. This article discusses the future outlook of nursing and the top 10 in-demand jobs shaping the profession’s trajectory. Carson Newman University also offers an array of online degrees to help unlock some of these doors.
The Evolution Of Nursing
Nursing has undergone years of growth, practical experience, and intuitional practices. Since Florence Nightingale set the foundation for nursing in the mid-19th century, the profession has become more structured, from establishing nursing programs worldwide to incorporating theoretical and practical clinical experience into modern nursing.
However, the nursing system witnessed immense growth in the mid-20th century. There were improved surgical techniques, newly developed drugs, and medical equipment, evolving the roles of nurses in the healthcare system and improving their specialized knowledge and skills needed to keep up with fast changes in the medical landscape.
From there on, the nursing profession went on a roller coaster. Nursing diversified and created several distinguished areas and specialties. Now, nurses can focus on specific patient populations and healthcare needs, including pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, and mental health nursing.
This diversification has produced more targeted and effective nursing care, backed by the rise of advanced practice nursing roles, such as clinical nurse specialists and practitioners, to create more in-demand roles for the profession. These are the 10 most sought-after nursing roles to future-proof your career.
Top 10 In-Demand Nursing Roles
The increased demand for healthcare services has expanded nursing roles beyond traditional boundaries to include specialized and advanced practice positions. These roles are vital in patient populations’ healthcare needs and ensuring equitable care access. Some of them are:
Nurse practitioner (NP)
Nurse practitioners (NPs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are professionals with special education and training beyond their registered nursing degree, giving them heightened experience and skills to provide comprehensive medical services.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) bridge the gaps between registered nurses (RNs) and physicians by serving as primary and specialty care providers. NPs are a mixture of both medical roles, adding to their list of superpowers. Other responsibilities of NPs include:
- Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses
- Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Developing and implementing individualized patient care plans
- Collaborating with other healthcare providers to ensure continuity of care
- Prescribing and managing medications
- Providing patient education and counseling
While their job description is enough to make them a priority in the healthcare sector, there are other reasons why healthcare organizations will still seek after NPs in the coming years. First, the healthcare market needs more primary care physicians. An AAMC study says there might be a shortfall of around 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034. The good part is that NPs can fill this void with their medical experiences, especially in rural and underserved areas.
NPS can also provide intensive and specialized care for the growing aging population, particularly in geriatrics and chronic disease management. Another reason NPs will be in high demand is their low salary cost compared to physicians. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says doctors earn about $100 per hour on average, while NPs earn a little over $50 per hour. This cost-effectiveness makes them appealing to healthcare organizations looking to optimize their resources.
NPs blend clinical expertise, leadership, decision-making, and patient advocacy to create sophisticated medical personnel, promoting preventive care and healthy lifestyle choices to prevent or manage patients’ health conditions.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice registered nurses who provide anesthesia and pain management care to patients undergoing surgical, diagnostic, therapeutic, and obstetrical procedures. CRNAs are trained to handle various types of anesthesia, such as general, local, and regional anesthesia. These professionals also ensure the safety of patients throughout the operation and postoperative period.
Like NPs, CRNAs are also cost-effective, making them hotshots in rural healthcare centers that might employ CRNAs as their primary anesthesia providers. CRNAs have unique job roles that make them must-haves for healthcare organizations, including:
- Pre-anesthetic assessment and evaluation of patients
- Developing and implementing anesthesia care plans
- Administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient’s vital signs during procedures
- Managing post-anesthesia care, including pain management and recovery from anesthesia
- Informing and educating patients and their families about anesthesia, pain management, and related topics
Geriatric nurses, also known as gerontological nurses, care for older adult patients, focusing on and addressing their unique health needs. However, these are only some of the responsibilities of geriatric nurses.
They’re responsible for conducting intensive assessments of older patients and assessing their physical, cognitive, social, and even emotional needs. Geriatric nurses also monitor their patients to ensure they are in optimum condition and to keep track of changes that could indicate a need for medical attention.
Besides medical attention, geriatric nurses educate and inform older seniors on healthy lifestyle habits and the best ways to maintain their health and well-being. This lifestyle habits education includes developing strategies to help these elders stay true to their treatments and manage chronic conditions like dementia, hypertension, and diabetes.
Healthcare organizations need geriatric nurses to understand the condition of elderly patients. Since most adults usually have multiple health conditions, geriatric nurses need to work with other professionals to give them an in-depth scope of their treatment, symptoms, and recovery, making them a liaison between the patients, their families, and the care team.
Geriatric nurses’ importance in the healthcare sector can’t be overemphasized, especially for nursing homes with many elderly citizens.
The global population is rapidly increasing, with organizations needing more geriatricians to care for older people. Already, the American Geriatric Society predicts that the USA might need about 30,000 geriatricians by 2030, showing the ever-growing need for geriatric nurses.
Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (MHNP)
A mental health nurse practitioner (MHNP) is a specialized medical professional who assesses, diagnoses and treats individuals with mental health disorders. There is an increasing demand for MHNPs in the healthcare sector due to several reasons, including:
- Growing awareness of mental health issues: The need for nursing experts well-versed in mental health increases as mental health becomes more recognized as a vital aspect of human well-being. MHNPs are trained to provide overall mental healthcare, helping to bridge the gap in mental health services and assisting patients in their recovery journey.
- Shortage of mental healthcare providers: There is a growing shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in many areas. Some experts say that the USA might experience a lack of about 14,280 and 31,109 psychiatrists, social workers, and others within a few years
The mental health sectors need medical professionals to fill these gaps. MHNPs can help address this gap by providing diagnostic and therapeutic services to individuals experiencing mental health issues, particularly in rural areas having no access to psychiatrists.
- Scope of practice: MHNPs have a broad range of experience, allowing them to work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, community mental health centers, and schools.
They can assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions, provide psychotherapy, prescribe medications, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure excellent patient care and communication between the patients and healthcare teams. Their broad scope of practice makes them valuable additions to any healthcare organization.
- Career growth and satisfaction: The increasing demand for mental healthcare professionals offers MHNPs extensive career growth and development opportunities. They can choose to specialize in specific areas of mental health, from child and adolescent psychiatry and geriatric to substance abuse and trauma-related disorders.
They can also pursue leadership and awareness roles in the healthcare sector, creating mental health awareness and offering insight into academic research. MHNPs can have positive impacts on mental health patients’ lives, which is another legitimate reason for their high demand.
In 2022, the American Cancer Society projected around 1.9 million new cancer cases and 609,360 cancer deaths in the US alone. That’s a vast number, and the healthcare sector needs more professionals to better care for cancer patients. This is where oncology nurses come in.
Oncology nurses are specialized healthcare professionals who focus on caring for patients diagnosed with cancer. These professionals are integral to cancer care teams, addressing the unique needs of patients throughout their cancer journey.
Oncology nurses are involved in every aspect of cancer care, from early detection and prevention to treatment and end-of-life care. They provide physical, emotional, and psychosocial support to patients and their families, helping them navigate the complex and often overwhelming world of cancer care.
They also have a broad scope of practice and can work with hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, and hospice facilities. They assess patients, develop and implement care plans, administer treatments, manage side effects, educate patients, and offer emotional and physical support to patients and their families.
Oncology nurses are open to several fields of specialization, including radiation oncology, pediatric oncology, hematologic oncology, and cancer genetic counseling. This variety allows nursing enthusiasts to tailor their careers to their interests and passions within the field of oncology.
They also have the opportunity to meet and work with various healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, and physicians, widening their knowledge of these professions and contributing their expertise to offer better care for cancer patients.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse
A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse focuses on caring for newborn infants, especially those with critical medical conditions or who are born prematurely. Technological advancements in neonatal care have given high-risk and premature infants a better survival chance, and the NICU needs skilled professionals to complement this advancement. NICU nurses are experienced professionals who ensure vulnerable infants’ well-being during their crucial early stages of life.
High-risk pregnancies and births frequently occur from factors like maternal age, pre-existing medical conditions, and multiple births. These factors contribute to the growing need for NICU nurses who can care for infants with complex health issues. It’s an added advantage for healthcare organizations that most NICU nurses have a broad practice range, from administering medications and treatment to providing nutritional support to infants.
NICU nurses are also well known for their emotional support that helps strengthen the bond between infants and their parents. It’s a beautiful career path for nursing enthusiasts who love babies and families and want to impact people’s lives.
Nurse informaticists combine their clinical nursing expertise with information technology, data management, and analytics knowledge to improve healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. They play vital parts in implementing healthcare technology solutions to improve patient care, reduce errors, and simplify healthcare processes. Some of their job roles and responsibilities that contribute to their rising need include:
- Data management and analysis: Nurse informaticists collect, analyze, and interpret patient data to optimize patient care. They identify trends and patterns, develop predictive models, and use this information to inform clinical decision-making, helping healthcare professionals to reach certain conclusions.
- Electronic health record (EHR) management: EHRs are the center of modern healthcare, and nurse informaticists play a crucial role in their design, implementation, and maintenance. They ensure the seamless integration of EHRs into clinical workflows, improve data quality, and help healthcare providers access and interpret patient information efficiently.
- Health information exchange (HIE): Nurse Informaticists facilitate the secure sharing of patient data among healthcare providers and institutions, improving care coordination and reducing medical errors.
Nurse Informaticists contribute to developing new technologies, systems, and processes that enhance patient care. They also collaborate with interdisciplinary teams to conduct research, test innovations, and bring new solutions to the market. Nurse informaticists must also stay informed on healthcare regulations and policies, ensuring their organization complies with data privacy, security, and other requirements.
The continuous growth of health information technology and the increasing complexity of healthcare systems are sure-fire reasons for the growing need for nurse informaticists in the healthcare sector. Organizations that adopt telemedicine and remote patient monitoring need the expertise of informatics professionals, ensuring informaticists become a crucial part of healthcare in the coming years.
Home Healthcare Nurse
Some patients can’t leave their homes for several reasons, including disabilities, privacy, or patients recovering from surgery or injury. Home healthcare nurses work with patients who can’t visit hospitals, regardless of their age. They also help patients maintain independence and stay away from unnecessary hospitalization.
Home healthcare nurses provide various services, including wound care, medication management, administering IV therapy, monitoring vital signs, and coordinating care with other healthcare providers.
Considering the aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, there is a growing need for home healthcare services, ensuring that home healthcare nurses remain in business for a long time.
Public Health Nurse
Public health nurses focus on improving the health of communities and populations through education, disease prevention, and health promotion initiatives. They work with diverse people and address various health issues, including infectious diseases, substance abuse, and emergency preparedness.
Public health nurses can work in various settings, including clinics, schools, community health centers, and government agencies. These professionals educate individuals and communities on healthy behaviors and lifestyles to prevent disease and promote wellness.
They also provide patients with immunizations, screening, and other preventive services, especially in rural areas. Public health nurses are also needed to care for victims of natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, or other emergencies.
Palliative Care Nurse
Palliative care nurses provide care and support to patients facing serious or terminal illnesses, aiming to improve quality of life and manage symptoms. Palliative care nurses work with patients of all ages to help them manage their lifestyles, provide physical and emotional support, and facilitate communication between the patient, family, and healthcare teams.
Palliative care nurses are professionals who are well-versed in pain management and other symptoms such as nausea and shortness of breath. They also work with patients and their families to develop individualized plans of care that address the patient’s symptoms and well-being.
They cooperate with other healthcare team members to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely care. Palliative care nurses educate patients and families on the disease process, treatment options, and self-care techniques. They may also guide advance care planning and end-of-life decision-making.
The demand for palliative care nurses is a lasting one since advanced technology now helps patients with serious illnesses to live longer, creating a need for palliative care professionals to manage their symptoms and quality of life.
The future outlook for nursing is promising, with many in-demand specialties expected to experience significant growth. Nurses will continue to play vital roles in healthcare, helping patients through their journey and providing the tender, loving care that encourages their patients. The roles and responsibilities of nurses will also evolve with the healthcare sector, creating new opportunities and challenges within the profession.