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4 Ways Nursing Has Evolved

Nursing is one of the oldest professions in the world. Nurses have been providing medical care for centuries at home, on the battlefield, and in medical facilities of all kinds. While many of the fundamental principles of nursing have stayed the same over time, changes in the field of medicine and society have caused nursing to grow and change. Here are four ways nursing has evolved over the years.

Portrait of a nurse smiling

Image via Flickr by DALAIWMN

One of the ironies of medicine is that the better it gets, the more it is needed. The global population tripled between 1950 and 2010, in large part due to advances in medicine, creating massive demand for skilled nurses around the world. As life expectancies increase, the need for nurses grows, especially those trained in caring for elderly patients with chronic health issues and end-of-life concerns. Estimates suggest that over the next several decades, population growth will lean heavily toward those aged 65 and up.

Forecasts by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predict that registered nursing will be one of the top professions for job growth through 2022, with more than one million job openings expected. Nurses with a master’s degree will be ideally positioned to take advantage of opportunities in this changing professional landscape.

As the demand for highly trained medical professionals increases, nurses are taking on ever greater responsibilities, including those that were once reserved for physicians. Nurse midwives care for women in all stages of their reproductive lives, providing routine services like exams and checkups, pre- and post-childbirth care, and help with the transition to menopause. Patients with acute illnesses may not be able to get a same-day appointment with their doctor, but can often get in to see a nurse to get the help they need.

One of the most overt ways in which nursing has evolved is the range of specialization that has emerged. Nurses may choose to focus on a specific area of medicine, such as cardiac, pediatric, public health, or emergency care to name just a few. There is also a broad range of licenses and degrees nurses can earn, depending on what kind of work they want to do. Those interested in a career in nursing may start training to be a nurse’s aide as early as high school. They can then choose to move on to an associate or bachelor’s degree, and potentially on to a master’s or doctorate degree in a variety of specialties.


Image via Flickr by jonnyfilmboy

From antibiotics, vaccines, and diagnostic tests to developments in the quality, cleanliness, and effectiveness of equipment and advances in record maintenance, technology has a tremendous impact on nursing. Improved technology can free nurses up to spend more time interacting directly with patients, however, the demands of constantly training to stay current on the latest medical and administrative systems require time and energy beyond what’s needed to care for patients.

In some ways, nursing today is vastly different than it was just a few decades ago. In spite of these developments, many nurses are quick to point out that when it comes to caring for patients there is still nothing better than the one-on-one care that nurses have practiced throughout history.

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