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Phoenix Forward

Nurses must learn to be future thinkers

Nurses must prepare for the future of their rapidly evolving profession

“Futurism.” It conjures up images out of science fiction. But it is actually the study of future trends based on the scientific analysis and extrapolation of past trends — and nursing is a field where futurism is especially relevant.

“It is not hard to predict that the demographics of the United States are shifting toward an older population,” says Pam Fuller, EdD, MSN, RN and dean of the College of Nursing. “Multiple demographic studies have predicted that the number of persons residing in nursing homes will double or perhaps even triple by 2030. These facts alone will influence where nurses will work, what skill sets nurses should hold and how nurses are educated.”

The future of nursing

Not only will the graying of the population shape nursing as a profession, but so too will the health care system’s shift to a preventive care focus, according to Fuller. “I saw Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, speak at a recent conference,” she says. “Carroll predicts that by 2020, we will have transitioned the health care system from one that ‘fixes’ people after they are sick to one that specializes in preventive, diagnostic medicine. Think of how just that one statement would change the delivery of nursing education.”

Health care is rapidly and
constantly changing, and nurses
must be adaptable.

“Health care is rapidly and constantly changing, and nurses must be adaptable,” says Glenda Tali, MSN, RN, APRN and campus college chair of the College of Nursing at the University of Phoenix Hawaii Campus. “Nurses can integrate futurism into nursing practice by keeping abreast of developments in medicine and nursing, and maintaining clinical competency in their areas of practice.”

Nurses will need higher levels of education

Indeed, a higher level of education will be required for nurses in the near future than in previous decades, according to Tali. “It is exciting to note that many states across the country are moving to require a BSN degree as entry into the practice of professional nursing,” she says. “With a large proportion of the nursing workforce currently prepared only at an associate’s degree level, it is imperative that nurses return and complete their BSN degrees. I believe this is a crucial first step on the road to preparing nurses and the nursing profession for the future.”

University of Phoenix prepares nurses to be future thinkers in a variety of ways. “The College of Nursing places a strong emphasis on forward-thinking learning opportunities for students,” says Fuller. “We continue to add technologies to the learning space, including virtual platforms, simulations, social media with faculty and students, electronic reading, electronic textbooks, online tutorials, and curriculum enhancements.”

Fuller cautions that while we can certainly make educated guesses about the future of nursing, only time will tell what the future actually holds. “We support and encourage our faculty members to discuss what future opportunities nurses may have. However, it is difficult to discuss specific jobs or roles. We focus on knowledge acquisition, skills development and professional attitude.”

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