(BPT) - Over the last decade, a number of changes have transformed the healthcare industry. The Affordable Care Act has enabled more than 16.4 million Americans to receive healthcare coverage. Advancements in technology improve both diagnoses and treatment quality. Retail health offers a convenience used by more than 10 million patients at 1,800 retail health locations. Along with the current challenges facing the healthcare system, such as an aging population, increased patient volume and physician shortages, these changes prompt the expansion of the traditional role of a nurse.
Generally, Americans believe nurses' roles are expanding as they share increased responsibilities to support the delivery of high quality healthcare, according to a poll commissioned by University of Phoenix College of Health Professions. The survey also found that adults in the United States view their experience with nurses as overwhelmingly positive. In fact, 95 percent found nurses to be a valuable addition to the healthcare system as a whole, and 87 percent view nurses as trusted sources of health information.
"As nurses take on greater responsibility, and as the needs of healthcare organizations continue to grow more complex, the skills and training requirements of nurses must be prepared to match this growth," says Betty Nelson, Ph.D., RN, and academic dean for University of Phoenix School of Nursing. "This is especially important given that the United States is currently facing a shortage of as many as 90,000 physicians by 2025.. Nurses with advanced education can help fill this shortage, particularly in areas where consumers do not have access to care."
Because of this, employers are looking for nurses with a variety of skills and certifications including:
Additional degrees or seeking an advanced degree
In-demand skills such as bilingualism, leadership and critical thinking
Flexibility and professionalism
The desire to grow into advanced practitioners such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants
Specialized training for working with various populations
An openness to diverse opportunities in a number of different facilities
In order to keep up with the changes in the healthcare system, at least 80 percent of the nation's nursing workforce will need a bachelor's degree by 2020 and the number of nurses with doctoral degrees will need to be double, according to the Institute of Medicine. Nursing education institutions play a critical role in meeting the needs of today's healthcare system. Nurses need a place to obtain these degrees and further their skills within the healthcare industry. Institutions recognize the expanding role of the 21st century nurse and are offering a wide range of curriculum and degree programs that address recent changes in the delivery of primary care. Graduates need to be equipped with the skills they need to succeed in today's health care market.
It's now more important than ever that nurses have the training and skills to match the demands of the growing profession. Along with the nursing community, institutions that offer nursing degree programs must work together to enhance and better prepare the nursing workforce.