5 predictions for the future
Nurse education in Australia has changed completely over the years, as you have seen through this amazing collection of articles. However, I believe we are yet to plateau. Sure, there is room for improvement, but the way we nurse and care for our community is changing so quickly that we have to ensure our education is relevant. It’s clear that we are currently producing some amazing Enrolled and Registered Nurses through our current programs.
However, with the rate of change within our health care systems, can we squeeze all this information into existing programs or is the face of nursing going to change sooner rather than later? Will the traditional roles of Enrolled and Registered Nurse stay the same or will they continue to evolve? Without the answers to these questions, there is no way to predict how nursing education may look in the future. However, there are a few areas we can expect to change- and here are some I think will.
- More opportunities to study
One element that is already transforming for nursing education is the volume of nurses choosing to continue into formal education during their careers. This is inclusive of Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas, Honours, Masters (including Nurse Practitioners) and PhDs. The accessibility to such education is also becoming easier as more institutions are offering online options that are flexible with shift work; scholarships and funding are also making education easy to access. Some employers are also encouraging their staff to continue their education before allowing them to upskill into the high acuity areas and, we are now empowering one another to study beyond what we originally thought we would be capable of.
- Assist in strengthening the voice of the nursing profession
Formal education gives us the strength to back ourselves in areas where we are sometimes overpowered. Personally, I think this is valuable for the nursing profession, the more we open ourselves up to formal education, the stronger we become as a community. This ensures we have a voice at the table of change and provide the best standard of care for our patients. It’s a common misconception that nurses are often under-educated and not normally seen as academics. It is my dream that we are recognised as well-educated health professionals who support their community.
- Advances in technology
One of the considerations for nursing education is learning about the advances in technology. Every day, the health care sector implements new technology (for example, computerised patient record keeping). Nursing education is now required to implement education on how to document using online systems as well as paper. This stands true for all the expanding technologies in our profession. How we decide what we teach to nurses and what they should learn on the job will be a key feature of nurse education moving forward. Soon, there may occur a need for entire modules or subjects dedicated to using new technologies. This means students will likely have less time learning about the more personable skills and more time learning about computers and gadgets. I hope that the education system finds a way to balance learning and being part of a health care team, focusing on patient advocacy.
- Continual focus on peer-to-peer education
Every nurse brings a slightly different set of skills and background knowledge, which creates an empowering and enjoyable workplace where everyone is encouraged to share their input. Not only are we teaching students every day within our roles, we are also doing a tonne of peer-to-peer education, such as providing in-services to our departments and bedside education every time we work as a team. Nurses take on students in a clinical environment as soon as they find their feet as graduate nurses. Acknowledging that there is now a greater influence and focus on formal education teams within a lot of clinical environments, there is also the need to empower nurses to be able to safely support our student nurses as soon as they are registered. How we do this is vital to the future of nursing education.
- Adapt to the changing role of ‘the nurse’
The last consideration is the fact that nurses’ roles are ever-expanding and ever-changing. We are now able to demonstrate many more skills and are often in managerial positions. This means education is more important than ever as we are expected to expand the scope of practice throughout our careers. There is no such thing as plateauing! We are required to not only maintain our knowledge, but to extend it every year!