Nurses are vital to the healthcare industry, and in a world changed by the coronavirus, it is apparent we need them now more than ever. ANA Enterprises and the World Health Organization (WHO) even extended the “Year of the Nurse” through 2021 to recognize the life-saving work nurses are doing.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in nursing, here are some important trends you can expect in 2021.
1. Online learning will remain widespread
More students than ever continued their education online during the pandemic, including nursing students. Online nursing programs provide students an efficient way to complete their coursework without having to visit campus (or just to do in-person lab exercises), although most students will still have to complete their clinical requirements in-person at healthcare facilities.
2. The demand for nurses will continue
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, there was a great need for nurses across the industry at all levels and in all specializations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 45% job growth rate for nurse practitioners from 2019-2029 and projects that employment for registered nurses (RNs) will grow by 7%, creating 221,900 new careers during the same time period.
Drivers of this demand include the need to care for our aging baby boomer population and the fact that more than 500,000 RNs are expected to retire across the U.S. by 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for more nurses and healthcare providers, though the demand will continue long after the crisis.
3. More nurses will earn a bachelor’s degree
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Nursing), set a goal of achieving an 80% Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) workforce by 2020. They cited several reasons including improved care outcomes. While that goal is still in progress, and many nurses do choose to pursue a BSN, there is still a demand for diploma-trained nurses. Some nurses choose to earn their diplomas so they can enter the workforce quickly and then go back to school for their BSN to expand their job opportunities and potentially increase their salary.
4. Telehealth will become more common
Virtual healthcare options have been available for years, but have been significantly more utilized over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic created a need for people to stay at home and socially distance. According to a Department of Health and Human Services report, over 10 million Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of telehealth services from March to early July in 2020. Telehealth also increases healthcare accessibility by making providers available to patients who may live in remote areas or have difficulties traveling to an office.
Though some healthcare professionals and patients may return to traditional office visits, telehealth will remain, and it is expected to be a normal part of a nurse's role in 2021 and beyond.
5. More states will hopefully join the enhanced Nursing Licensed Compact
Travel nurses look out! There may be greater access to work across the United States sometime in 2021. The enhanced Nursing License Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one multistate license so they can practice in multiple states. More than two dozen states are part of the NLC, while several others have pending legislation.
6. More men will choose nursing
Nursing has traditionally been a female-dominated career, with men representing less than 3% of nurses in 1970. Since then, the number of male nurses has tripled to more than 8%, according to the United States Census Bureau. There are organizations representing men in nursing, including the American Advancing Men in Nursing (AAMN), which encourages, supports and advocates for males in nursing.
7. There will be a greater emphasis on diversity in nursing
A recent estimate by the United States Census Bureau shows that nearly 40% of Americans identify as nonwhite and over 350 languages are spoken in U.S. homes. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, hiring more nurses from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups to mirror the patient population will continue to be a focal point for the industry. Additionally, the industry is working to increase cultural awareness among nurses, which includes being able to respectfully acknowledge and adapt to cultural differences, which ultimately improves care outcomes.
8. Nursing specializations will be in demand
As the healthcare industry advances, there has been an increased demand for nurses with certain specializations. Nurses with specialty certifications or significant experience in one area have proven they are competent to treat those specific conditions or care for certain groups of people, which can lead to better quality of care and health outcomes. For instance, an oncology, cardiology or pediatric nurse is going to possess more knowledge in that area because they are interacting with that specific demographic regularly.
9. Home healthcare will continue to be important
Home healthcare is a great option to keep high-risk populations healthy, and jobs have been on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some experts believe the demand could continue, due to the aging baby boomer population, but limitations such as the price of providing in-home care are a concern. Home health nursing can be a very rewarding career, especially since these nurses provide one-on-one care for patients within their homes.