How the Response to the Pandemic is Shaping the Future of Healthcare

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/Erik Richardson 

Pre-coronavirus, applications to nursing programs and colleges had reached records. More than 75,000 qualified candidates were denied entry at U.S. nursing schools for the 2018-2019 school year, according to a report quoting figures from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Nearly a full year into the full-blown global pandemic, shortages in both registered nurses (RNs) and school spots for nurse students remain severe. As people watch nurses provide specialized medical services during this, hopefully, “once in a century” pandemic, a surge in the recognition of and appreciation for nurses is showing. With much of the nation and the globe shut down or hibernating during the pandemic – taking advantage of the downtime – greater numbers of people are deciding to pursue a career in nursing and more RNs are deciding to upgrade their qualifications. The latter is an especially wise choice. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2028, job growth for registered nurses (RN) will reach 12 percent, a significantly higher rate than other professions. 

Currently, all around the world there are reports of “catastrophic shortages” of certified nurses. Models show that over the next decade, the need will greatly intensify. One example comes from New South Wales in Australia: hardly among the world’s more densely populated areas. Figures show by 2030, there will be a minimum of 8,000 openings for registered nurses and midwives in that one area. Extrapolate those numbers to a larger locale such as the U.S. and the needs are evident. 

The future points to specialization. Advanced practice RN’s (APRNs) will have significantly more options over the next decade and beyond. Job growth rates for APRN’s currently stand at around 26 percent. Such numbers are, of course, set for growth as the demand for specialized nursing fields increases globally. 

One factor in the demand is not affected by Covod-19. By 2030, the United States is slated to become a “super-aged” society, a status already achieved by Germany, Italy and Japan. A proposed Japanese solution to becoming a “super-aged” society isn’t likely to find much appeal stateside. Well over 80 percent of Japanese respondents say they are “comfortable receiving nursing care from a robot.” A majority of Americans, however, express hesitation with the idea of robotic caregivers, while a good majority of elderly Americans are opposed. Even in robot-friendly Japan, majorities of both sexes report hoping for human care for their spouses or family members. It’s easy to understand why. Dignity is important to humans, regardless of culture. We crave humanity – a person who cares; a person who knows one day they too will grow old and need care. 

Clearly, stats and trends point to long-term career growth for those working in geriatrics – or more specifically, for those with an MSN in gerontology. Related to the aging of the so-called “baby boomers,” is an increased need for nurse anesthetists. Again, extrapolating from figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s been estimated that the demand for nurse anesthetists in the coming years could be over 30 percent.

Of course, specializing in the needs and focuses related to the process of aging is just one of more than a half-dozen advanced nursing fields in which medical professionals are earning MSNs – many through an online MSN program.

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Looking at other fields in nursing, earning a degree in midwifery is another area with high potential. Recent obtainable statistics show American mothers are increasingly moving towards births at home. In fact, in 2017, one of every 62 births in the U.S. was an out-of-hospital birth, representing a 77 percent increase from the period of 2004–2017. Specialized birth center births more than doubled in that same year, as more women choose to forgo the “medicalization of birth” in favor of more natural or gentle birthing experiences. As the home birth movement continues its campaigns to education and inform soon-to-be mothers about their options, expect a drastic rise in the need for midwife nurses. Alongside midwives, neonatal nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners are specialties slated for growth. 

The Covid-19 crisis is causing an unprecedented rise in mental health needs. The last report commissioned by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), conducted in partner with the Census Bureau and supervised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than eight percent of adults aged 18 and over reported symptoms of anxiety disorder, over six percent are believed to have symptoms of depressive disorder, while in total some 11 percent of all U.S. adults exhibited some signs of psychiatric disorder. Data from the second half of 2020 is expected to show sharp increases in these numbers, highlighting the need for certified psychiatric nurse practitioners. 

A final consideration is salary expectations. RNs – according to one report – could soon expect annual renumeration of US$70,000, while for advanced practice RNs (APRNs), that expectation could reach US$144,000. Lockdowns and downturns due to Covid-19 have offered professionals in numerous fields the chance to use this time increase their educational certification, and many are doing so via online programs. Registered nurses currently studying for or applying to study for a Master of Science in Nursing are grasping a unique opportunity for advancement.