The Evolution of Nursing: Then, Now and What’s to Come

nurse assisting elderly woman

Things change. That’s life. The nursing profession is no exception. Although the primary focus of nursing– taking care of patients– is still the same, almost everything else has been modified. The evolution of nursing doesn’t stop in the present, either. There are constantly new breakthroughs, medicines and technologies. Due to these advances, nurses and their employers must keep up or risk becoming obsolete. It has become an industry of adaptation.

The Evolution of Nursing

Nursing in the Past

Early nursing began in the home. Family members would care for the sick where they lived before hospitals existed.  In around 300 A.D., some of the first hospitals emerged in the Roman Empire.  The first written documents about nursing were also during this era.

The number of hospitals grew during the Middle Ages.  As the Catholic church spread across Europe, it built monasteries along the way.  Many of these buildings contained hospitals, staffed by nurses.

Modern nursing is said to have begun around 1845. Florence Nightingale led several women in treating the sick and injured Crimean War soldiers. Her treatment practices set new standards for nursing care.  Across the Atlantic, American doctor Joseph Warrington wrote a book for society nurses and midwives.  This was the first example of a regulated nursing text.

The next evolution of nursing was in education. Women started receiving training to become nurses in small to mid-size hospital systems. Their education was observation-based and took two to three years. After graduation, the hospital that owns the education center would bring them on as full-time nurses.

As time went on, hospitals grew larger, and education became more comprehensive. Nurses of all races and backgrounds were accepted into programs and became part of the workforce. Technology began to play a larger role in nursing. Advanced patient beds, stethoscopes and blood pressure devices became the norm.

In the 1960s, specialized nursing began to emerge.  Nurses could be trained for intensive care units or other specialties.  Specialized nurses helped hospitals deliver better, more efficient care to their patients.

The evolution of nursing continued in its education system.  Advances in technology and medicine created the need for more educated nurses. Nursing education moved from hospitals to the classroom.  Certification programs emerged, allowing nurses to perform certain duties.  Degree programs granted access to treat patients in hospitals.

Nursing in the Present

Education and technology represent the largest differences between nursing’s past and present.

A college degree or nursing specialist certification is require for nurses to enter the hospital environment. Education consists of a few years in a classroom setting.  Virtual and in-person labs simulate the working environment. From there, nurses in training are required to work alongside registered nurses to gain experience before graduating.

After graduation, nurses must continue their education. Medicinal advancements, new technology and other factors keep nurses in the classroom long after college. Continued education is a must.  Without it, nurses may find themselves unprepared and limited in the types of nursing they can practice.

Technology has advanced to a point where nurses in training may learn in a virtual space. Once in the field, nurses use advanced technology to monitor their patients’ vital signs, distribute their medicine and measure their weight. Today, clipboards have been replaced with secure computer systems for keeping patient notes.

Modern nurses have also traded in all-white uniforms for multicolored scrubs and rubber shoes. Often, the unit they serve dictates the color of a nurse’s scrubs.

Nursing in the Future

More education and new technology seem to be a guarantee in the future of nursing.  Today, 57% of nurses hold at least a Bachelor of Science degree.  18% of nurses have completed a graduate program. Currently, nursing schools are limited in the number of applicants they can accept.  With increased faculty, more classrooms and higher budgets, these numbers can continue to grow.

Due to technology’s influence on the medical field, many predict future nurses will also have to be proficient in information management. Nurses need to understand how to gather and analyze new data made available by technology. This data is useful to better predict and treat both short-term and long-term illness.

The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health claims a number of barriers will prevent nurses from being able to respond to a changing health care system. One of these barriers is leadership in hospitals. Most are controlled by those unaware of the problems nurses face in the line of duty every day.

More to Come

In the future, nurses will be asked to help lead hospitals in a new direction by taking on high-level leadership roles. These roles will ask nurses to implement new care ideas as well as identify problems within hospitals.

It’s estimated that the nursing shortage will continue.  The deficit may reach 808,000 nurses by the year 2025. Geriatric healthcare professionals will be a need to care for the aging Baby Boomer generation. By 2050, it’s projected there will be 83.7 million US residents over the age of 65.

Nursing staffing agencies will be in higher demand due to this nursing shortage. Healthcare-related industries are going to be requesting more help to care for the influx of patients.  Hospitals, in particular, will need help finding and selecting nurses to staff. They will often look to medical staffing agencies to help find qualified workers.

future challenges of nursing

Those in the industry that are looking to expand their business should look into medical staffing factoring. Staffing factoring provides agencies with the capital needed to help their company grow. Nursing staffing financing is also available to ensure hospitals and care facilities have enough workers to properly care for their patients. For more information, fill out an online form or give us a call for a free quote.