It’s difficult to predict the future of nursing in the US but we can use some of today’s startling statistics to try and see our way clear to where we’re going. While these statistics indicate a trend that appears alarming for healthcare services in the future no one is really surprised. Here we take a look at what the future may hold for nurses such as CNAs, LPNs and RNs.
The Trend Based on Statistics
The nursing shortage in the US is expected to get worse and according to many indications, much worse. According to a National Nursing Workforce Study conducted in conjunction with the National State Boards of Nursing in April of 2023, a staggering 800,000 nurses indicated they plan to leave their position within the next 4 years.
During the Covid pandemic approximately 100,000 nurses left the healthcare workforce which caught the attention of the powers that be, and not in a good way. When combined with the anticipated 800,000 open nursing positions that will need to be filled we may honestly say the nursing shortage presents a healthcare crisis. So what should RNs, LPNs and CNAs expect the future of nursing to look like?
The Changing Way of Healthcare
Even prior to the pandemic the future of nursing indicated a demand for quality nursing staff in every field. The combination of an aging population of baby boomers, retirements outpacing those entering the field and lack of supportive workforce spoke to a crisis in nursing before March of 2020.
Between accelerating retirements and increasing need, the future of nursing is one that promises to be competitive among employers. You’ll likely see many changes in how medicine is conducted due to the growing demand and thanks to the innovation necessary in dealing with basic primary care patients as the pandemic surged. Options for care via telehealth, home health and in-home long term care became more mainstream.
The new ways of medicine contribute to the future of nursing in many different areas. For RNs, LPNs and CNAs we need to consider how this changing face of healthcare changes the way jobseekers are employed. Here we take a deep dive into what the future of nursing looks like for each of these three nursing levels.
The Future of Nursing for RNs
Registered Nurses (RNs) provide and support care for the patient, education for the community and public in areas of health including chronic conditions, public health concerns and general health and wellness. RNs Have a deeper knowledge of nursing and medical science as they have typically completed a degree in BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). Some RNs have an associates degree and not a four year degree. Some have completed a bridge program from LPN or CNA to RN. Like their LPN and CNA counterparts, RNs must meet state standards and be certified and licensed by passing a state exam.
Registered nurses work in all facets of healthcare. Hospitals, doctors offices, clinics, outpatient surgical centers, government agencies, public and private schools, home health services, residential care centers, skilled nursing facilities and home healthcare are many of the employment opportunities sought out by RNs.
Over the next 9 years employment opportunities for RNs is expected to grow by 6%. This is much faster than the national average across all occupations. Of course statistics that indicate trend in which there is sure to be a staggering need for RNs in the future may see that number rise considerably.
For RNs the future of nursing is good, from an employment stance. However, more RNs are demanding changes to their schedules. These nurses are trying to avoid a burnout situation as they often find their workplace short-staffed. Until employers recognize the risks of short staffing such as a decline in patient care, the opportunity for mistakes to occur and the impact on the professional reputation of the healthcare organization in general, the need for quality nurses will ever increase.
Many RNs are turning to other opportunities that offer more flexibility. Travel nursing for instance is on the rise, with an increase from 2020 may be as much as 40%, according to the website for industry journal HealthAffairs. Look for more flexible and creative opportunities in the future of nursing as driven by the nursing shortage.
The Future of LPNs
A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) provides patient care under the direct supervision of doctors and RNs. LPN nursing staff provide a variety of duties from clerical and office help to bedside care. Patient care may include taking vital signs and samples for the lab and bathing and feeding of patients unable to perform these tasks themselves, or those who need some degree of assistance.
Because of the type of services they provide LPNs are often employed in home healthcare, skilled nursing facilities, as well as assisted living and those residential care facilities that provide both short-term and long-term care. Some LPNs work for laboratory services in hospitals, clinics and doctors offices. Additionally, insurers employ LPNs as do health and personal care retailers and community colleges too.
The future of nursing for LPNs is bright. As with CNAs, LPNs are equipped to fill in the gaps in many patient care tasks left by the nursing shortage and, combined with the aging population growth LPNs are sure to be in high demand. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the growth in the employment need for LPNs is faster than average, at about 5% in the last year.
As more LPNs retire new LPNs will be needed to fill their shoes. Outpatient care facilities and clinics will also need more LPNs to fill open positions as they are utilized to perform more and more healthcare services. Rural areas will also demand more LPNs than ever before as they are very often among the most underserved communities. In fact, another statistic reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a 35% increase in the need for new LPN positions by the year 2031.
The Future of CNAs
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) provide basic care for their patients. This care involves help with daily activities such as hygiene, toileting, meals and whatever physical challenges the patient faces in day-to-day life. Most CNAs work in assisted living or long term skilled nursing facilities. Some CNAs also work in a hospital or clinical setting.
The demand for CNAs is high right now and expected to climb. One reason is healthcare organizations are relying more and more on CNAs and LPNs as the nursing shortage continues. The need for nurses other than Registered Nurses (RNs) has grown about 4% in the last year, which is on par with employment statistics overall, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As the need for CNAs are primarily in entry level jobs the opportunity for professional growth and development is very high. Today’s CNAs are adept at technology and not intimidated by using it in the healthcare setting. Telehealth and virtual care opportunities allow CNAs to “see” and care for patients remotely, which is especially helpful for those patients who have mobility issues and can’t get to in-person appointments or those who live in more remote areas. Because CNAs tend to work in assisted living, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities or residential rehab the aging population creates a high demand, especially for those CNAs specializing in geriatrics.
The future of nursing for CNAs is very promising. With the growing need for technology in medicine, geriatric care and all that that encompasses, CNAs are positioned to play an essential role in the future of quality healthcare.
The Future of Nursing for Employers
Building a career in nursing, whether RN, LPN or CNA, takes a special kind of person and healthcare organizations recognize that. Some employers are answering the call for more nurses by offering incentives beyond pay. Look for more opportunities for self care and resources to provide for emotional and physical wellness in an effort to prevent burnout.
Some employers hope to encourage high-quality nursing staff by offering greater PTO, healthcare benefits and tuition reimbursement. In addition to that, many organizations have started more engagement with their nursing staff to find out the needs of their employees in greater detail and offer support in an effort to retain nurses. In these dire days of nursing shortages employers are doing all they can to keep the staff they have. The future of nursing puts you in the driver’s seat.
Beyond The Traditional
There is a shift among RNs in this country and pretty much across the globe indicating a change in values. Perhaps as fallout from the grueling demands of the Covid pandemic or a natural evolution, today’s RNs are often overworked to the point of burnout, causing them to seek a change in employer or in some cases career.
Technology is also changing nursing in many ways. Electronic medical record keeping has been around for a while now but with the advent of AI many healthcare organizations will begin relying on artificial intelligence to oversee the precision of patient services and eliminate the opportunity for human error.
Change is difficult and the indications of a serious nursing shortage is forcing the hand of healthcare in lots of different ways. Once patients, healthcare providers and healthcare employers have grown accustomed to a standard operating procedure its often hard to engage in doing things a different way.
The pandemic created challenges for nursing staff around the world. For RNs, LPNs and CNAs in the US the future of nursing will never go back to the way it was prior to 2020. That’s not to say it’s a bad situation altogether. Yes, the need for nursing staff is very high but healthcare workers have always been a resilient bunch and at the forefront of the well-being of all humans for a very long time. We will move forward in the future of nursing and with everything it brings.
The Future of Nursing is in Your Hands
As the needs of healthcare change seemingly daily it can be easy to feel lost in the shuffle. However, don’t let the future overwhelm you. You are in control and bear a unique position to determine your professional future and decide your priorities as a nurse. For more information on what the future of nursing may hold for you contact BOS Medical Staffing.