Nursing Is In Transformation, And That's Good For Nurses

Marissa Mararac

Written By: Dawn Papandrea

The nursing profession, at its core, has always been about caring for patients. However, it was once a female-dominated career in which nurses essentially served as assistants to male doctors, caring for and cleaning up after patients. They also had to look the part by wearing white dresses, white stockings, and white hats.

Thankfully, things are a lot different today.

Over the decades, nurses have evolved into highly specialized, well-respected members of the medical and health care teams. Many would even say that they are the true backbone of the healthcare industry.

Take a look into how nursing has changed over the years and why it is now an exciting time to be a nurse!

More Intense, Formal Training

Nursing education is much more formal and comprehensive than it once was.

There are a few educational pathways to becoming a nurse, including earning an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree – all of which provide an intense science and practical skills-based education.

The education process nurses have to go through now is drastically different than it was 100 years ago when nurse training was more focused on etiquette and how to address doctors, and looking the part.

In addition, nowaday nurses have to pass a national exam, which is a fairly recent requirement for becoming a licensed RN.

Today, aspiring nurses must pass the NCLEX, which is administered by the The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). That organization wasn't founded until 1978.

The exam itself has even evolved, as the NCSBN and became the first major organization to utilize a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) model in 1994.

More Responsibility

With a stronger education foundation, nurses have gradually taken on more patient responsibility, especially advanced practice nurses.

Depending on the situation and what the state allows, nurses can sometimes administer medication, make diagnoses, and work autonomously. Many nurses who work under a doctor's supervision still have a great deal of input in helping the team choose the best treatment options.

The Impact Of Technology

Like most professions, technology has reshaped the way nurses do their jobs today.

In many ways technology has helped nurses become more accurate, efficient, and also helps alleviate some of the physical demands.

For example, patient records are almost completely digital today, not only allowing for less paperwork, but helping prevent human error on charts. With patient histories available in a digital file, it is easier for nurses to understand and assess a patient.

Other technological advances include better monitoring devices, implantable devices for administering medication, mobile apps to look up any medical information on the go, and special beds and chairs so nurses don't have to do as much heavy lifting.

More Specializations

After becoming an RN, there are still plenty of advancement opportunities in the field thanks to all of the specialties that have arisen.

Today's nurses can earn certifications or pursue advanced nurse training/degrees to grow in their roles and increase their salaries.

Fairly new nursing specialties in areas like forensic nursing and bioinformatics simply didn't exist a few decades ago. And others have become more in demand with advancement in the medical field and changing demographics, such as radiology nursing, cardiac nursing, and geriatric nursing.

For those who go on to become nurse practitioners, depending on the state, they could very well be providing primary care services.

More Positions And Possibilities

Not only are there more types of nurses than ever before, but there are many different places that nurses can work beyond hospitals.

Nurses are needed in medical offices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, correctional facilities, and to perform home health care services.

Travel nursing is also growing in popularity, where nurses work as independent contractors in high-demand areas for a scheduled amount of time.

In other words, there is more flexibility today for finding a nursing job that works with your schedule, and lifestyle preferences.

Related: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers

What Nowaday Nurses Know

As older nurses look toward retirement, there could be some situations in which there is a generational gap between them and the new nurses entering the profession.

For instance, those who have not kept up with technology, or taken continuing education courses to keep their skills fresh, could find themselves frustrated with the new ways of doing tasks pertaining to the medical field.

However, for the most part, today's nurses, including those who have experienced some of these changes firsthand, are better off than in years past.

As nurses become a more integral part of health care services, literally on the front lines of saving patients' lives, improving health, and working with families, the profession has truly been elevated. It is more respected and revered than ever before, and salary potential has grown to reflect all of the hard work that nurses do.

Looking back on how far the nursing community has come, it's safe to say that the profession is more fulfilling and rewarding than it's ever been, and one can only imagine what the next 10, 20, or 50 years will bring.

Next Up: 7 Important Elements Of An Inspiring Nursing Career

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

Marissa Mararac

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