The Next 10 Years of Nursing

Societal demographics have changed significantly in recent years — a trend that is anticipated to continue well into the future. Because of population growth, a greater number of patients with chronic comorbidities and increased accessibility of robust and targeted technology, healthcare leaders must redesign delivery of care to keep pace. Registered nurses are expected to be central to this transformation, as they number nearly four million in the U.S., per data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

What Did the 2010 Future of Nursing Report Predict?

In 2010, an expert committee was formed to identify how nursing would need to evolve to meet the coming challenges. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), renamed in 2015 to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), published its findings in a report called the Future of Nursing. Its primary recommendations at that time included:

Prioritizing baccalaureate-level nursing education. Given the complexities of care and its increasingly tech-centric aspect, nurses should be prepared to operate at the full scope of practice. To do so, the committee suggested that at least 80% of nurses complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) by 2020. Online RN to BSN programs provide a streamlined pathway for working nurses, allowing them to accelerate the time to graduation and participate in a more robust curriculum that includes coursework in public health, leadership and research. Over eighty two percent of employers now strongly prefer BSN graduates, while 41.1% require nurses educated at the baccalaureate level, according to 2020 AACN data.

Enhancing nursing leadership. Nurses have a prominent role in the healthcare system and should be involved in its redesign. This can be facilitated by encouraging nurses to step into leadership roles, where they have the capacity to inform best practices and mentor future nurses.

What Will the 2020-2030 Future of Nursing Report Predict?

The committee has been actively gathering research and insights to form updated recommendations for 2020 and beyond. Through three public meetings held in the summer of 2019, the committee sought input from nurses about the challenges the healthcare industry faces, particularly as it pertains to social inequality and its effect on care delivery.

The final report, delayed due to the emergence of COVID-19, will be released in early 2021. Updates will reflect the "changes in clinical care, nurse education, nursing leadership and nursing-community partnerships as a result of the pandemic," according to Campaign for Action. The report will also look at how the nursing profession may be instrumental in reducing health inequities, improving access to care and creating well-being and stability for all patients, regardless of social determinants of health. 

Further recommendations are likely to include:

  • Expressing the importance of continuing education, based on a BSN education as the entry-point for a nursing career and steppingstone to advanced practice
  • Finding ways to minimize and reduce healthcare costs
  • Encouraging nurses to be active on community boards, where they can offer their expertise, develop leadership skills and form vital neighborhood connections to those they live and work with
  • Identifying and overcoming barriers to care
  • Enhancing nursing diversity
  • Utilizing technology — such as smartphone apps, remote monitoring, wearable devices and artificial intelligence — to improve efficiency and effectiveness of care as well as ensure equity and quality standards are maintained
  • Continuing to provide culturally competent care that is patient-centered and family-focused

Looking to the Future

Nursing professionals are resilient and innovative, which means they are well positioned to be active participants in creating a more equitable healthcare system. They can quickly identify evolving patient needs and collaborate to implement targeted solutions. Based on industry predictions, the coming decade is an exciting time to be a nurse, where you have the potential to enact systemic and lasting change.  

Learn more about The University of Rhode Island's Online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing:
Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses
Nursing Fact Sheet

Campaign for Action:
Future of Nursing 2020-2030 Report Delayed Until Spring 2021
Shape the Future of Nursing

HealthLeaders: 4 Insights on the Future of Nursing Report

National Academy of Medicine:
The Future of Nursing 2020-2030
Health Care Reform and Increased Patient Needs Require Transformation of Nursing Profession

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