How Nursing & Healthcare Has Evolved Through The Decades & The Modern Responsibilities Of Professional Nurses Today

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One of the most admirable and worldly respected professional vocational careers is that of the registered medical nurse. Furthermore, it is impossible to mention the word ‘healthcare’ without the image of hardworking, dedicated, and compassionate nurses being automatically conjured up in one’s mind.

The continuous evolution and expansion of the role of nursing in individual, family, community, state, and worldwide healthcare is one of, if not the most, impressive one of all healthcare careers and, for that matter, the most impressive progression throughout all industries. 

With that being said, continue reading to discover how nursing and healthcare have evolved through the decades and the modern responsibilities of professional nurses today. 

Early Development of the Role of the Working Nurse

These days, registered nurses and nurse practitioners treat well over six million patients every year. With the baby boomer population thankfully living longer than generations before them, that number is likely to continue to rise. 

The role of the registered nurse as one knows and understands it today began in the late 1940s and early 1950s with a nurse named Loretta Ford, an American nurse credited with the impressive invention of the very first nurse practitioner program. 

Ford was a nurse living in Colorado who was working in public health and therefore directly under physicians and essentially felt nurses deserved more quality and thorough training to be able to make decisions themselves and better serve local communities. 

During the social, economic, and political problems experienced through the following years, moving into the 1960s, Ford teamed up with Henry Silver, a registered physician, who together funded and developed the United States’ first nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado. The fundamental purpose of the creation of the program was to better equip and train nurses working in public health to diagnose, care for, and treat members of the public. 

Quite understandably, the early incarnations of Ford’s and Silver’s nursing practitioner program were, at best, particularly basic and the program was, back then, never affiliated with any legal qualifications or certification. 

The Stand-Alone Legitimization of the Nursing Profession 

It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s when the role of the nurse practitioner began to be considered to be a legitimate and even, one would hope, a necessary part of the healthcare profession. 

The main reason the country’s healthcare sector was beginning to take the role of nurse practitioner seriously and afford the role the respect, time, and energy it deserved was due to the nurses themselves. The secondary reason was that during this time, there was a significant shortage of qualified physicians in the United States and therefore, nurses were already taking on more and more duties that were not technically part of their job description. 

It was during this time that nurse practitioners had decided to document patient satisfaction and record reviews and feedback from members of the community who had benefited from their care, compassion, and treatment. 

Due to the resourcefulness and impressive initiatives of both Loretta Ford and Henry Silver, by the middle of the 1980’s, numerous functional and effective nursing practitioner programs had begun around the length and breadth of the country. 

Despite the fact that there were no longer physician shortages in the United States, government officials and other influential people involved in the running of the healthcare system of the country had already ‘cottoned on’ to the fact that nurses were cheaper to employ yet were armed with a wealth of knowledge and effectively applied experience. 

In 2011, the woman who single-handedly made the profession of nursing into the all-encompassing, incredibly worthwhile, respected, and altogether crucial role in the healthcare sector was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

The Role of the Modern Nurse In 2021 & Beyond

Essentially, of course, the role of the nurse in today’s modern world is certainly not dissimilar to that of the role Loretta Ford had in mind for herself and her colleagues, not least the fact that patients have always been and will continue to be at the forefront of importance and priority.

However, the medical world around them has transformed astronomically and naturally has had a profound impact on the way nurses operate, specifically surrounding the additional responsibilities they have for each patient. 

Modern nursing involves preparing and monitoring the dietary plan for the patient, administering medication and other treatments, devising and monitoring the care plan for the patient, and tracking the progress of each patient, including the recording and analysis of their vital statistics and changing progress.

A Comprehensive Timeline of Nursing Training

If you are someone who is applying to universities or academic colleges in pursuit of a nursing degree, or rather you are already a registered nursing professional who has decided to expand your career prospects by revisiting further education for a higher level of degree, then it may be helpful to learn of the comprehensive timeline for nurse’s career progression.

The First Step

The first step on your way to becoming a nurse is the successful acquisition of an undergraduate degree, usually a bachelor’s degree in nursing or nursing science. 

There is a multitude of reasons to study nursing at the undergraduate degree level, not least the obvious proverbial doors the degree will open to further your nursing career. 

Benefits of becoming a professional registered nurse include, but are in no way limited to:

  • Skills, knowledge, and experience that you can apply to your everyday personal life as well as your professional one
  • Considerable promotional opportunities and the opportunity to specialize
  • The ability to work nationally across the country and also internationally as well, due to the fact that nursing is a valued and valuable profession in every single country of the world
  • Nursing is one of, if not the number one, profession that has the highest graduate employment rate of them all
  • The fact that you will join a noble and timeless profession that will give you an incredible sense of personal fulfillment and achievement as you successfully help, care for and treat other people

Postgraduate Degrees in Nursing

There is a wide plethora of postgraduate, master’s degrees in nursing and healthcare, all of which provide incredibly detailed and specialized knowledge, skills, and experience in your chosen area of nursing specialism. 

A selection of the most popular nursing specialisms as of 2020 across the length and breadth of the United States:

  • Nursing Administration

Nursing administration is the focus on nursing informatics, advanced clinical practice, pathophysiology, epidemiology and clinical pharmacology, and careers in the field will mean you will be working over staff nurses. 

  • Primary Care

Nurses who specialize in primary care often spend their particular module studying the progress of and working with patients who are suffering from either different forms of cancer or HIV. The latter field of study encompasses care continuity, counselling, HIV-AIDS Didactic courses, health assessment, clinical pharmacology, and therapeutic communication. Obviously, they work closely with patients living with HIV. 

  • Nursing Education

Quite naturally, nursing education is primarily concerned with the teaching of staff nurses and involves equipping the student in all things related to the main elements of modern nursing. Modules in this particular specialism usually include curriculum development, teaching strategies, nursing education practicum, modalities, and nursing educators’ various roles. 

  • Diabetes Nursing

Essentially, diabetes nursing centers around diabetes management and care and focuses on health promotion, health education, pathophysiology, diabetes management and treatment, pharmacology, and patient education. Student nurses who specialize in diabetes nursing work directly with patients who are living with both Type A and Type B diabetes. 

  • Nursing Leadership & Management

Management and leadership in the workplace is a specialism with the ultimate aim of arming and equipping student nurses with the tools, knowledge, and experience to lead and manage staff nurses and eventually manage a unit or run a ward themselves. Modules often studied within the specialism of nursing management and leadership include, but are not limited to, human resource management, nursing theories, ethics and laws for nurse managers, fundamental nursing practice, and healthcare issues. 

  • Psychiatrics

Psychiatric nursing is one of the most interesting and rewarding yet challenging in equal measure aspects of modern professional nursing and therefore is one of the most popular modules to choose from in a postgraduate nursing degree.

After successfully acquiring a nursing degree specializing in psychiatrists, you will be working directly and daily with patients who have problems with their mental health and well-being, including behavioral disorders, stress and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse. 

  • Family Care

Family care and family health is another nursing specialism that is incredibly popular amongst student nurses as it involves directly working with adult patients as well as younger children. Modules usually included in the study of family care include disease management and health promotion, pathophysiology, health assessment, clinical pharmacology and health education. 

Studying To Become A Registered Nurse

Professional nurses, whether they have studied at the undergraduate level or have become a registered nurse by an ADN to NP program, have committed and dedicated their professional life to caring, treating and helping other people. 

There is a particular type of person and, more specifically, a particular type of personality that one often sees in the nursing career sector in terms of key attributes and natural skillsets. Such stand-out characteristics include:

  • Compassion and Empathy
  • A Strong Sense of Logical Thinking
  • Emotional Calm in Adversity
  • Strong Stress Management Levels
  • The Ability to Strategize Under Pressure
  • Excellent Organizational and Time Management Skills

The Ever-Changing Role of the Modern Nurse in 2021 and Beyond

The all-encompassing, vocational career of nursing is one that naturally evolves to coincide with a variety of societal changes, political and government-related changes, and of course, medical developments in treatments and diagnostics. 

The future of nursing is assured to be a challenging yet incredibly rewarding one, as changes in the healthcare sector directly affect clinical and hospital practice alike. Due largely to the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic of 2020, care delivery and the daily application of treatment have considerably altered. Additionally, increased patient expectations mean nurses in the modern world are expected to always be working with the latest information and equipment at their disposal. 

Modern nurses as nurse practitioners have always been at the frontline of patient treatment and are the primary caregivers for the vast majority of patients. Modern registered nursing professionals are becoming increasingly relied upon by other healthcare professionals to ensure, to the best of their ability, that mistakes are avoided, and potential risks are eradicated on a daily basis. 

As in any other sector of professional provision to members of the general public, the modern world of nursing has become more and more reliant on innovative technologies and equipment. Developments such as high-tech patient simulators, electronic health record systems, and sophisticated remote monitoring devices mean that modern nurses need to become and stay atop of new and trialing equipment and systems. 

Such modern technological innovations significantly aid the workload of nurse practitioners in the following ways (to name a few):

  • The enabling of collaboration with staff from different wards and hospitals
  • The general improvement of life for nurses at work
  • The immediate & updated access to important patient records & information
  • The rapid response to evolving physiological parameters
  • The latest information on coronavirus guidance, prevention & PPE

Additionally, the manner in which the modern nurse delivers the appropriate standard and level of care to their patients is changing as well, in part due to facilities such as retail nursing clinics and ambulatory surgery buildings meaning nurses have a wider range of working opportunities. Preventative care is also another trending and financially invested and encouraged element of modern nursing practice and is set to remain that way. 

Nursing has changed a lot since it was legitimized by Loretta Ford back in the mid-1900s. However, despite these changes in how it works and the specifics of the role, the main goal of nursing hasn’t changed. Created to aid paitents and serve the community, nursing remains as noble a career as it first started all those years ago. 

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