An Aging Population Could Shape Careers in Nursing

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Significant changes and emerging needs in the health care system and practice environment will have a profound impact on future careers in the nursing profession. From the new administration to the looming health care worker shortage, many factors have the potential to shape nursing jobs and educational requirements.

The 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” indicated that the primary goals of nursing education will remain the same, despite changes taking place across the health care industry. These foundational principles include preparing nurses to meet a diverse set of patient needs, molding the next generation of nursing leaders and providing students with advanced practice knowledge and skills to deliver high-quality, safe patient care.

While these ideals will remain constant, the IOM report stated that nursing education must evolve to meet these health care and industry changes. Entry-level nurses transition from academic settings to a vast range of practice environments to meet the health care needs of the population. Advanced practice nurses obtain a graduate-level education that prepares them to deliver primary care in a variety of practice environments.

As such, one of the primary emerging health care issues that could impact future nursing careers is a quickly aging population.

Aging population

According to the Deloitte report, the percentage of older populations is rising worldwide. The average life expectancy is projected to rise from 72.3 years in 2014 to 73.3 years in 2019. This slight increase will bring the total of individuals over the age of 65 worldwide to 604 million.

Reasons for this increase in average life expectancy are enhanced living conditions, proactive prevention of diseases, declining infant mortality rates and easier access to medication and health care services. Interestingly, the longevity of life does not equate to improved health care quality. While larger populations of adults live longer, health care policies and practices do not always keep up with the growth.

Certain health care systems are understaffed, under-resourced and underprepared to meet the complex needs of the growing population of older adults. While people are living longer, this fact does not always mean that they are living healthier. Many of these older adults experience significant deterioration of their physical and mental capacities, necessitating the need for nurses to receive additional education in geriatric care best practices.

Health care cost chart going up

The National Council on Aging revealed that 92 percent of older adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, while 77 percent have two or more. As such, chronic illnesses represent 75 percent of the health care costs, while only a small percentage of public health funds go toward improving this situation. Heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes — the top four chronic conditions — cause almost two-thirds of American deaths every year.

With the aging population and rise in chronic health conditions, the next generation of nurses and nursing leaders may be needed in long-term care or other geriatric nursing environments.

This emerging health care need may cause many nurses to consider obtaining a doctoral degree in nursing. Those individuals interested in advanced nursing education should look at Bradley University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The program’s flexibility and intensive coursework support students already working in the nursing field or future nurses hoping to meet new challenges in the health care industry. Contact one of the program’s representatives today to hear more about the excellent faculty or curriculum offerings.


Recommended Reading

The Aging Population: End-of-Life Planning and Advanced Directives

Aging Baby Boomer Population: What It Means for The Nursing Industry

Bradley University Online Nursing Programs