As we look ahead into the future of nursing, there are a lot of things that are likely to change as hospitals and healthcare systems continue to evolve and address many of the current nursing issues and concerns of their staff.
There are many trends that we see as possibilities in 2024, but here are some of the trends in nursing that we think we will see play a big part throughout the next year.
Home Healthcare Will Increase
In 2024, nurses of all experience levels should expect to have normal interactions within home healthcare services. The demand for accessible in-home healthcare will continue to grow due to integrations with telehealth medicine and nursing homes closing across the country.
The Choose Home Care Act, proposed to the Senate in July 2021 and to the U.S. House of Representatives in October 2021, is currently under consideration. If approved, this law would enhance Medicare’s coverage for home healthcare services.
The Act could also promote remote monitoring and telehealth nursing services for the elderly, offering them an alternative to nursing facilities post-hospitalization.
As the home healthcare sector grows, there is an increasing demand for standardization. Experts emphasize the need for uniform licensing requirements across states to simplify federal applications.
Leaders in the industry are advocating for standardized procedures for onboarding and vetting, encompassing background assessments, experience checks, certification verification, and social security cross-checking.
Nursing Shortage Will Continue
The largest nursing shortage the U.S. has ever seen is a result of both a growing need for nursing staff to care for patients with more complicated healthcare requirements and a declining supply of nurses. The shortage is expected to continue throughout 2024.
The nursing shortage also affects the quality of care that patients receive. Hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities may struggle to meet the demands of patients, leading to longer wait times, increased patient-to-nurse ratios, and higher rates of burnout among young nurses.
Efforts to address the nursing shortage include increasing the number of nursing school graduates, offering incentives for nurses to remain in the workforce, and creating more flexible work schedules to attract and retain nurses. Additionally, the use of technology and telehealth can be a way to alleviate the shortage by allowing nurses to reach more patients remotely.
“The number of people entering the nursing workforce is increasing, but it is not keeping pace with the need,” says Maryann Alexander, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, chief officer of nursing regulation at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in Chicago. “Additionally, the number of advanced practice registered nurses is increasing.”
A number of states are evaluating the minimum number of general nurses needed for staff positions and increasing financing for healthcare facilities. For the purpose of increasing the number of new nurses, some states are now investing in nursing education, and some universities are increasingly offering rolling admission for nurse-related studies. Finally, other states are considering increasing pay and establishing better, safer healthcare ratios.
Nursing Home Staffing Will Be Regulated
In 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the proposed legislation aimed at regulating staffing levels in nursing homes.
The proposed rule is aimed at enhancing staffing assessments, enforcement strategies, and instituting new Medicaid payment reporting requirements.
The CMS rule suggests a minimum of .55 hours for registered nurses (RNs) and 2.45 hours for nurse aides per resident each day. Additionally, the proposal, which includes a $75 million provision for nurse aides’ training, mandates 24/7 RN staffing in nursing home facilities.
Elaina Hall, the Chief Quality Officer at SnapCare, noted the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal. “Nursing homes can be demanding workplaces and places for loved ones to reside. However, the challenge lies in reimbursement issues. Medicare and Medicaid don’t offer substantial payments,” she said.
Hall further explained that the benefits of mandated ratios include enhanced patient care and safety, improved care quality, and prevention of staff burnout. However, facilities are resisting the proposal due to affordability issues.
Facilities struggle with affording the staffing costs and ratios and receiving adequate reimbursements. They’ll also face regulatory challenges as state visits to their site will become necessary. The state will need to devise a plan to monitor, staff, and enforce this mandate. Thus, while the intention behind the rule is positive, its execution and implementation present significant challenges.
Federal Funding Increase
The U.S. Department of Labor announced $80 million in grants to encourage more nurses to enroll in nursing schools and expand the number of nursing professors. The funds will help train additional nurse faculty, who in turn will educate more nurses.
Organizations that suggest plans to aid underrepresented groups as they enroll in nursing programs will be given grants. Successful grant applications will put forth initiatives that foster community relationships and recruit new nurses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, “more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030, and that employment opportunities for nurses will grow at 9 percent, faster than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.”
Despite general nursing shortages, this federal funding is estimated to be a substantial solution to fixing healthcare gaps that may be experienced.
Nurses Will Earn More
Nurses are well-positioned to negotiate for higher pay. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the median yearly pay for Registered Nurses (RNs) is $81,220, while Nurse Practitioners earn a median of $125,900 per year.
Research by Statista demonstrates a growth in RN salaries, increasing from approximately $69,000 in 2011 to $80,000 in 2020. This upward trend is predicted to continue over the next decade due to the rising demand for nursing professionals.
Moreover, hospitals have started providing signing bonuses to nurses, particularly in rural areas where healthcare resources are limited. Additional incentives being offered include complimentary accommodation and educational financial assistance.
Healthcare and Nursing Education Will be Influenced by Artificial Intelligence
A report from March 2023 reveals that the National Science Foundation is funding AI research and education with the goal of enhancing educational equity through AI-assisted learning.
The report highlights that tools like ChatGPT can create simulated patient interactions and other scenario-based exercises as an engaging educational resource for nursing professionals.
Moreover, AI’s capacity to automate evaluations and grading lightens the workload of nursing educators, mitigating the burnout that has led many to leave the profession. However, AI extends beyond just chatbots.
A July 2023 report from Western Governors University (WGU) states that AI has been shaping nursing since the early 1980s, transforming the profession with predictive modeling, assistive robotics, and other innovative technologies.
Focus on Mental Health
It’s no secret that these last few years have been extremely rough on healthcare professionals. Many of them have been asked to work long hours in tough conditions, often to the point of burnout. Through doing that, there has been an incredible new focus on making sure that nurses are not only appreciated but also given the time needed to recover properly from a tough shift and have the resources they need to do their jobs.
A 2022 survey conducted by Reputation Leaders found that 58% of nursing professionals were not regularly offered grief counseling, and 37% of nurses did not feel supported in their mental health (that is within the same ratio as the graph percentage above).
This renewed focus on mental health for nurses is a fantastic thing for them, medical facilities, and patients alike. The nursing staff is often the front line of communication between the medical team and the patient. A nurse who is refreshed and given resources to focus on mental health can better communicate with patients and provide overall better care with improved outcomes. This means the patient gets excellent care and may be able to recover more quickly and have a better overall experience.
What is not to love about that?
The most important takeaway from the trends in nursing for 2024 is that although there aren’t many new or revolutionary things coming within the new year, there will be expanded efforts on nurses’ education, funding, and mental health. Nursing staff deserve to feel valued, taken care of, and balanced.