As nurses, you know that health care is always changing. Nursing is not the same profession today as it was when you started five, ten, or twenty years ago. Part of these changes steep in a better or evolved understanding of what it means to care for patients, but others are out of nurses’ control and reflect changes both in the health care industry generally and in-patient populations.

The introduction and expansion of new tech in the health care setting combined with the rapid rate of change in patient populations mean that nursing is more dynamic than ever before. And you need to keep up.

What are the most pressing changes nurses are facing right now? These are a few of the things that will change the way you practice your profession over the next few years.

Nurses Will Need to Balance the Hands-on/Hands-off Approach

Nursing is, by definition, a very hands-on practice. Care requires a nurse to be wholly present with a patient. But some of that is already changing, and the rate of change could grow substantially over the next few years. Why? Because the Internet of Things (IoT) and all its sensors are gaining ground in hospitals and clinics.

Wearable tech and smart sensors have the ability to record and remotely transmit health data from patients directly to care providers. Everything from vitals to movement is now trackable with current tech, and nurses are increasingly responsible for patients who use it.

The implications are huge for nurses. On one hand, nurses can spend less time on rote tasks, which will make a difference in daily activities and relieve a small amount of pressure as nurses deal with a continued labor shortage. At the same time, it will also change the way nurses care for patients: how will nurses provide bedside care if they no longer need to attend to patients at their bedside?

Nurses Will Find New Colleagues to Work With

Nurses work as a team with physicians, specialists, and administrative staff to keep their organization functioning. However, the continued introduction of new technology in the health care industry will demand nurses to work more closely with two emerging groups: IT professionals and medical coders.

New technology in hospitals means organizations will require an influx of IT professionals to keep all the tech up and running. For nurses, it means working with this group when they find issues with the tech used on the ground.

At the same time, the growth of IT professionals in clinical settings offers an opportunity for nurses. They will help nursing staff stay at the forefront of tech and learn how to balance patient care with technology in a way that’s effective and safe. Working closely with IT teams can also help nurses better protect vital health data and avoid HIPAA violations by avoiding simple mistakes and identifying vulnerabilities.

Patient Self-Advocacy Will Continue to Grow

The role of the nurse as an advocate will also be challenged over the next few years. Already, patients have benefited from advancements like AI and wearable tech. However, as more and more companies insert themselves into the American health care system, the role of the patient as a self-advocate will also begin to grow because they have new resources outside the hospital and clinic system.

Improved self-advocacy is good news for patients and nurses alike. Nurses do their best to encourage patients to ask questions, seek answers, and share their health goals. A more educated and self-empowered patient population benefits everyone, and self-advocacy is a key indicator of patient satisfaction.

However, you can expect to also see it challenge the role of the nurses. Self-advocacy is also empowering non-health care businesses to get involved in certain items. For example, Amazon now allows customers to use their Health Savings Account (HSA) funds to pay for certain items. Nurses will need to adjust to the potential of patients taking on more of their care outside the purview of a clinic. And Amazon isn’t just interested in selling diabetes supplies: you could see giants like these trying to insert themselves into catastrophic disease management and treatment.

Patients Will Be More Diverse in Almost Every Way

Already, nurses need to have a strong understanding of caring for diverse patient populations. However, the changes in demographics, social systems, and epidemiological patterns will only continue, and nurses need to prepare themselves to care for increasingly diverse patients and learn to navigate the ethical challenges that can come with adapting to new patient populations.

Nursing in a diverse context means doing more than providing interpreters and using intake forms in multiple languages: though, these things are vital first steps. It also means learning about the most prominent patient groups and to gain a better understanding of their social, cultural, and religious contexts.

For example, if caring for an elderly Hindu woman, a nurse may find that they need to be specific when they require the woman to fast. In Hindu culture, fasting is part of a religious practice but it can allow them to eat fruit and drink water. Nurses need to be specific about what ‘nothing by mouth’ means. The difference is important and could dramatically impact a patient’s outcomes.

How Will Nursing Challenge You?

These upcoming changes in the health care industry will change the way you practice nursing once again. The addition of new tech, changes in the shape of self-advocacy, and shifts in patient populations all present both opportunities and challenges for both nursing and health care as a whole.

Most importantly, these changes can help you and your colleagues be better, more dynamic nurses and contribute to improved health for your communities. So, don’t fear these changes. Embrace them. If anyone can meet the challenges facing health care over the next few years, it’s nurses.

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