The healthcare industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before. As a hard-working nurse, you and your profession face an uncertain future. Advances in technology and a shortage of student nurses are just two of the issues that could change the profession forever. These modern healthcare trends prove that real change is already well underway.

1. Nursing is Adapting to Changing Demographics

Baby boomers are now retiring from nursing in vast numbers. Unfortunately, the supply of new nurses just isn’t keeping up with demand. The majority of nurses in America are now over 50, which means there could be several thousand urgent vacancies within 20 years or so. Unable to fill these vacancies with Americans, healthcare providers will turn to healthcare staffing agencies and immigrants to make up the numbers. Nursing will be more ethnically diverse than ever before, so the industry will need to adapt to different religions, cultures and languages.

2. Nurses Are Playing a Greater Role in Care Provision

As a result of the changes pushed through by the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now paid based on the entire patient experience. This makes the input of nurses more important than ever. Nurses will need to collaborate more closely with doctors and other care providers to ensure entire care packages — and not just specific treatments — are the best they possibly can be. Nurses are also playing a much greater role in financial planning and purchasing decisions.

3. Technology is Becoming Increasingly Important

Technology is changing every area of the nursing profession. Some student nurses, for instance, are already using sophisticated simulators to practice care provision before being granted access to real patients. Electronic health records are also already in use, but they are now being made available to nurses on the move via the latest mobile technology.

4. Nursing is Moving Away from Hospitals

There is now a concerted effort within the healthcare industry to keep patients in their own homes for as long as possible. As a result, there is a growing need for nurses to work in communities — providing care and monitoring the health of patients away from hospitals. An increasing number of jobs are becoming available in other care institutions such as hospices, palliative care homes and chronic care clinics. This new approach to nursing is driving cost-savings and reducing the number of emergency room visits.

5. More “Non Nurse” Practitioners Than Ever Before

So called “no nurse” practitioners are individuals who became nurses without working their way through the ranks as a trainee. Some major in nursing as an undergraduate before attending a nurse practitioner school; others already have an unrelated bachelor’s degree and apply for work as a nurse via an accelerated nurse practitioner program. As more and more baby boomers retire, this pathway into the profession is becoming increasingly important.

6. Nurses Are Becoming More Educated

As the nursing professional continues to change, the need for a wider, more detailed knowledge base amongst nurses becomes greater. An RN-to-BSN degree, for example, allows a nurse to remain in post while he or she studies for a degree or baccalaureate. There is a direct correlation between the continuing education of existing nurses and hospital mortality rates, so expect to see more educational opportunities in the future.

7. The Provider Shortage is Driving Demand for Nurses

Employing more of non-physician clinicians provides a unique opportunity to tackle the physician shortage. This includes nurse practitioners (NPs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and physician assistants (PAs). More of these clinicians would lead to a team-based type of medical care. The American Journal of Medicine states that they could provide evidence-based screening, counseling, and preventative care and logistic support which would leave physicians to manage diagnostic challenges and complex medical issues. This opportunity proves to be more cost-efficient and even shortens long wait times that consumers are facing when trying to see a doctor.

These are exciting and challenging times for nursing. But with the right funding and the commitment of nurses, the future of the profession looks very bright.