Friday, September 13, 2013

New Directions in Health Care Bring New Jobs for Nurses

By E’Louise Ondash, RN

The more I read and learn about medicine of the future and new ways of delivering health care, the more I feel that the number of jobs for nurses is going to go only one way – up. And although there will be some new jobs in acute care, the largest growth in employment opportunities is likely to be in a wide variety of outpatient arenas, in long-term and chronic care settings, in patients’ homes, and in phone consultations or telemedicine.

Some of these “new” jobs have already appeared.

For instance, every week around the country, large retail stores like Target and drug store chains like Walgreens establish walk-in clinics (also known as convenient care clinics or CCCs) that are staffed by nurse practitioners who diagnose and prescribe. They see adults and children and treat minor ailments like ear infections, pinkeye and urinary tract infections; give immunizations; and perform camp and sports physicals. Some nurses in CCCs have even assumed the responsibility of monitoring and advising patients with chronic diseases.

According to a 2008 survey by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, this form of primary care is most popular with “millennials” – those who have come of age around 2000 – but an average of 20 percent of all age groups say they would or have received care at a CCC.

The increasing complexity of obtaining health care also has given rise to the patient advocate or “navigator,” both ideal jobs for nurses. The nature of our profession dictates that we be patient advocates, and our education and work experience is our on-the-job training for becoming a navigator. Nurses also are flexible and resourceful – necessary qualities for dealing with third-party payers and increasingly specialized health care providers and institutions.
As more people live longer and with more chronic illnesses, the concept of coordinated or team care becomes important, and nurses make ideal team members. Team care is necessary because it’s impossible for one health care provider to meet the multitude of needs of the long-term chronically ill. Nurses are invaluable components of these health care teams because they understand patients holistically, and serve as patient advocates and communication links between patients and teams.

The public health arena is another area where nurses will find an increasing number of job openings especially in health education.
According to a statement by the American Nurses Association, health care in this country is currently shifting its emphasis from an “illness care system” to one focused on health promotion and disease prevention. This change of direction is occurring because of the “convergence of multiple economic, political, and social factors,” including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other federal legislation focused on preventive health.

The brave new world of medical technology, mobile devices, and a plethora of health care apps afford opportunities for nurses that didn’t exist just a few years ago. New electronic monitoring devices and apps allow providers to personalize care, increase compliance and lower costs by decreasing hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Patients report to nurses and also look to them for guidance. And medical practices that offer email or other online communication with their physicians often have a nurse available for virtual triage or consults.

All of these new jobs require that nurses do their part – obtain higher levels of education that focus on clinical care, as well as participate in continuing education. It’s up to the powers-that-be to recognize the huge and important role that nurses play in pursuing the country’s health care goals – to increase quality of care, promote prevention, and decrease costs – and to provide them with the tools and autonomy they need. 

Do you work at one of the new-generation jobs?

What new nursing specialties do you see on the horizon?

Tell us about it.


Jason Alvarez said...

You make a lot of smart points, E'Louise - I think a lot of the general population is stuck within the idea of "going to school" and then "being something" - what I mean by that is, to me, for ultimate success, education is a life-long endeavor, no matter what you're doing... like the new positions you mention being created, times are changing... it's much easier to adapt and be ready rather than trying to stick to your old ways - great piece!

John A said...

Good points. Nurse job is very challenging and needs lots of patience.