Skip links

Trends Transforming The Nursing Industry Outlook in 2021

The nursing industry has exploded because of the need for caregivers for people of all ages. Nurses are needed in the eldercare sector while also needed in pediatrics and treatment centers that focus on specific diseases. Basically, nurses work in private homes, private practices, and hospitals. They work as office nurses, home health nurses, public health nurses, hospital nurses, and the list goes on. These are special people that are important to the function of the health care industry. Most of all, they are important to the patients that are sick, disabled, in rehab, or just need a friendly face or a shoulder to cry on when dealing with an injury or illness.

Nonetheless, the nursing industry changes frequently, like many industries. In 2017, it was predicted that the demand for RN’s would rise 36% by 2021. However, the hope was that at least 80% of the nurses working in the industry would have a B.S. in nursing. It was also predicted that health care costs would increase, federal and state regulations would change, and nurses would be working beyond retirement age.

The Top 10 Trends in Nursing in 2021

It’s interesting to compare the aforementioned predictions to the predicted trends for 2021. With 4 million registered nurses working in the U.S. and the need for them still growing, some of the predictions might come true. For instance, the increasing demand for nurses can result in employers offering raises to keep nurses on the payroll past retirement age. On the other hand, facilities have been known to allow older, higher-paid nurses to retire so they can hire more entry-level nurses to fill the need without shaking up the bottom line too much. These are trends that shake up the numbers to an extent, but there are other trends that will have a positive impact. The following are 10 trends that will undoubtedly transform the nursing industry in 2021.

1. Increased nursing specializations

There’s a higher demand for nurses that work in specific areas of medicine. For instance, there are chemo nurses that work in oncology. Even if a nurse isn’t a chemo nurse, one that specializes in oncology is going to possess much more knowledge in that area because that is all they do all day, every day. The nurse becomes an expert in that area of medicine. A nurse specializing in a specific area of medicine increases patient trust.

2. There’s an outpatient shift

In recent years there has been a shift from inpatient care to outpatient care. The American Hospital Association said in their 2019 Hospital Statistics report that outpatient revenue in 2017 was 95% of inpatient revenue. This shift shows that there has been and will be a need to control the cost of health care, especially as new technologies emerge that allow for better outpatient care.

3. There will be more nurse navigators

Nurse navigators have been common in breast and cancer centers for quite some time, but they are being found in other facilities as well. They’re effective because they have medical knowledge along with excellent people skills. Nurse navigators guide patients along the health care path, which improves the experience and quality of life.

4. Self-employed nurses

It’s also becoming possible for nurses to work for themselves. Nurse navigators and nurse practitioners can provide services to patients, especially in rural areas that are in need of such services. Another area of self-employment includes nurse informatics. These are nurses that consult with doctors’ offices and clinics about their electronic health records. They can help with documentation and scheduling.

5. Telehealth will continue to rise

The demand for video and phone consultations is growing. Doctors and nurses can also remotely monitor a patient. With over 75% of hospitals connecting with patients via some kind of technology, virtual care is going to continue to rise, and nurses will need to be on top of this.

6. More advanced degrees

As mentioned earlier, it was hoped in 2017 that more nurses would hold a minimum of a B.S. in nursing. The good news is that more nurses are enrolling in doctoral programs, according to Purdue University Global. This has a lot to do with the shortage of doctors, which increases the need for direct care providers. Nurses can work while they continue their educations, which also opens them up to significant pay increases. There is a mandate on the future of nursing for more nurses to obtain more advanced degrees.

7. Continuing education online

Many nurses are getting their advanced degrees online. This is thanks to colleges making it possible to the point they have fully expanded their course offerings to include Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing degrees. Up until recently, a B.S.N was the highest one could go.

Online course offerings are ideal for nurses that can’t work school schedules around their work schedules. In many rural areas, there aren’t colleges that offer these advanced degrees. By opening up this door for them, nurses in once “suppressed” areas are becoming more knowledgeable, and that’s improving the quality of care geographically.

8. The nursing shortage will continue

Of course, the nursing shortage will continue. This problem has persisted since 2000 despite the 19% growth in the number of incoming nurses since 2012. Globally, the number is at a standstill. Much of this had to do with the Great Recession because it caused many nurses ready to retire to not retire due to the financial impact the recession had. Although the Great Recession was in the last decade, the effects of it continue.

9. The gender pay gap is closing

Just like many other industries, there has been a gender pay gap in nursing. In 2000, there was an over $48,000 per year gap in pay between female nurses and male nurses. Now, the gap is less than $10,000 per year. This is certainly progress. While most nurses are still female, the diversity is increasing. In 2011, 1 in 10 nurses were men. However, the number of men in nursing has grown by 660% since 1981.

10. The need to bridge social gaps will increase

Nurses are also being looked at as people who can bridge social gaps. Unfortunately, there have been deficiencies in care for certain social classes. Nurses are going to be looked to as the people who can deliver health care and also meet social needs. A lot of research is being done on how to bridge disparities and gaps. One method of doing this is making sure patients have a voice and that families and even communities are incorporated into the design and operations of health systems.

Nursing Stats and Growth Projections in 2021

Now that you know what’s in the pipeline for 2021, there are five must-know statistics for you to evaluate.

  1. The National Center for Workforce Analysis has said that there will be over 800,000 vacant nursing positions in 2021.
  2. In 2016, there were 3.2 million nurses actively practicing in the U.S. It was predicted that there would be 3.24 million nurses actively practicing, but there are 4 million nurses going into 2021. That’s an increase from 2.71 million nurses in 2012.
  3. There are four times as many RNs in the U.S. as there are physicians.
  4. In a 2016 Gallup poll, Americans ranked nurses as the most trustworthy in the health care field.
  5. RNs make up the highest percentage of health care professionals in the United States.

Self-Care Will Enhance the Future of Nursing

One of the trends in 2021 that isn’t mentioned as often as many others are the need for nurses to take care of themselves. Every day, nurses are taking care of everyone else and put their own care on the back burner. Facilities, doctor’s offices, and clinics are putting plans in place that help nurses take better care of themselves so they can continue to give excellent care.

Although the number of nurses in the industry is growing, some of the vacant positions are the result of burnout. Medical facilities have learned that promoting health and safety, helping nurses with personal and professional growth, and aiding in the preservation of character and integrity keeps nurses at their best. Empathy and compassion are replenished, a higher quality of care is promoted, and turnover is reduced. This is something that nurses of the past have helped make happen for nurses of the present and future.