Dreaming the Future
Heal the past, live the present, dream the future.
—Mary Walker, PhD, RN, FAAN, from a speech
given October 11, 1996 at the University of Tennessee
What is your dream of nursing’s future? We are almost midway through the first decade of the 21st century. Futuristic prognostications about health care fill the pages of both professional and popular books and magazines. Let’s look at a few of the more intriguing predictions that are being made. Well-known lecturer and consultant Tim PorterO’Grady says that nurses are at the outset of a new paradigm for practice, because patients will not need the kind of care that nurses were accustomed to giving. Through genomic typing, anomalies will be diagnosed in the earliest stages. Portability of medical hardware will permit cheaper, short-term ambulatory delivery of services for the majority of patients. The nursing role will mainly involve advising, guiding, and educating (Porter-O’Grady, 2001). Eleanor Sullivan, editor of Journal of Professional Nursing, foresees that eradicating entire diseases via genetic engineering is a possibility. Sullivan also predicts therapeutic cancer vaccines, advances in noninvasive diagnostic and treatment procedures, expanded communication technologies, and greater use of nanotechnology (Sullivan, 2002). Nursing visionary Luther Christman speaks of a device to instantly translate languages that will enable scientists across the globe to communicate easily: “Each will be able to raise questions in their respective language, the recipient will hear it in his or her own language, and responses will be similarly translated” (2002, p. 14). Thus, the growth of scientific knowledge will be even more swift and dramatic, with profound impact on the health care system.