Opportunities in Nursing

Article excerpt

Health care is rapidly changing, and so are the roles and opportunities for health professionals. Nurses, along with other providers of health care, are responding to the new environment. Nursing is changing to meet the new health needs. The marketplace for future nurses has evolved to new jobs. There are shifts in preparation requirements for a successful career. These issues, as well as the role of African Americans in nursing, are important topics to be addressed in consideration of career opportunities in nursing.

Health care reform must be considered. These are times when one cannot open the newspaper or listen to television without a reference to health. The language includes terms such as HMO's, managed care, cutbacks, downsizing. It is natural to wonder what effects these changes have on both health workers and health consumers. There are increased efforts to control the costs of health care by setting limits on the amount of money to be spent for care. These efforts include shortened hospital stays, standard protocols for treatment and limits on fees for provider services. The direction is toward formation of health care networks that link consumers, providers, and insurance funding into health delivery plans. There continue to be 40 million Americans without health care insurance.

Both new scientific knowledge and new technology for treatment portend great impact for health care. The causes of disease and illness are now often related to lifestyles of patients. Further, the population is older, living longer, and more ethnically diverse. These factors combined create limitless possibilities for a new health care world. That world will be one where people's health problems and caregivers' solutions are changed to provide relevant, effective outcomes.

One may ask whether nurses will, in fact, be needed in the future? If so, what type nursing positions will be available in the new networks? How can a nurse be ready to take advantage of new opportunities when they occur?

The role of nursing in the future will be even stronger than it is today. With the focus on positive outcomes of care, nurses should take responsibility as professionals for their practice. The patients will benefit from the effective health-teaching and disease-prevention skills of nurses. Nurses' caring, comforting, and culturally sensitive actions will be in demand. Patients will learn how to live in ways to promote a healthy life with services of highly skilled, professional nurses.

Nursing is currently making changes to meet the new health service needs. The care of patients is taking place in environments outside the traditional hospitals. Community home nursing is being used a great deal, since hospital stays are shortened. Outcome-focused nursing through managed care approaches is also a part of cost control. A new independence, which demands accountability, is required of nurses. Critical thinking by nurses, to make sound judgments, is essential.

The master's-educated, advanced practice nurse is in high demand. The new health needs require lifelong learning for safe nursing practice. The explosion of new knowledge and new technology will require continuing education. Both nursing practice and education are developing new experiences to support this evolution.

The new technology will enable both earlier detection of illness and disease and more effective treatment. When a patient has surgery by laser, there will be a much smaller incision, much less wound care and dressings, and therefore faster healing and recovery. Transplantation of organs enables life to extend as well as opening up new ethical dilemmas. These and numerous other advances will each contribute to the challenges of health provision.

The nursing marketplace of tomorrow will seek nurses who can provide new types of services. The shift to community and home nursing will require nurses with the ability to handle care in unstructured settings. …