The Future of Nursing

The 21st century is well on course and with its progress comes significant changes in the nursing profession. Touted as the biggest segment of the health profession with more than 3 million members according to IOM (2010), the profession is on the upward trajectory. The medical profession is changing and the complex American healthcare system calls for an improved and enhanced nursing profession. A number of landmark changes are necessary to facilitate this kind of a transition as recommended by Blais and Hayes (2016). This paper will look at the kind of changes that will dictate the future of healthcare and most importantly, the future of the nursing profession. The changes are inevitable and are necessary in the process of reforming healthcare. IOM (2010) has captured that a few barriers will potentially hamper nurses from instituting quick responses to the changing healthcare setting and system. 

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Committee Report

The RWJF has been on the frontline in instituting measures aimed at improving the healthcare of the entire American populace for more than 4 decades. The organization works with different organizations to create solutions that bring the desired change. In 2008, the foundation, in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), to make recommendations that would transform the nursing profession, came up with the report “Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health”. The report has been considered a blueprint that would be used in remodeling the American healthcare philosophy. The report acknowledges that by being empowered nursing professionals, they (nurses) will be equipped to lead the transformation. The following are the various elements suggested by the report. 

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To get us started, the report calls for nurses to practice fully according to their education and training. This means that the innovative capabilities of nurses need to be fully exploited. To allow this, the report calls for the evaluation of regulatory barriers that exist in the profession. A continued evaluation of the scope of practice should allow nurses to prescribe mediation without a physician’s supervision among other capabilities that nurses are trained on but cannot practice due to legal limitations. The need to manage transitions from school to practice is needed, an element that is pointed out by the high turnover of nurses.  

The report points on the importance of education in the transformation of the nursing profession. The reports reads, nurses will have to achieve higher levels of education and training to respond to these increasing demands (Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2011). The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recommends that there is a need to have nurses with bachelor’s qualifications rise to 80% by the end of 2020 while the number of nurses with Masters and Doctorate degrees need to rise two fold. Nurses should be subjected to an improved education system that allows them to achieve seamless academic progression. Education helps nurses to shift operations from the task-oriented thinking to a critical and holistic thinking, which, consequently, leads to more established care plans. This has been effectively demonstrated by the advancement of education since the times of Florence Nightingale. With this in mind, it is likely that the nursing profession is going to be occupied by individuals with a higher level of education.

The other element that the nursing profession should endeavor to achieve according to the RWJF report is being full partners with other players in the health care professionals. Pfaff, Baxter, Jack, and Ploeg (2014) explain that collaboration between different professionals in health care is not an easy task due to the existence of barriers, which cut across individual, team, and organizational levels. Fewster-Thuente and Velsor-Friedrich (2008) put communications challenges on top of the list with a 70% responsibility for the barriers. By collaborating with other professionals, nurses are not only going to achieve new skills but also work more seamlessly with other healthcare departments.

The other element that has been critically evaluated by the RWJF is effective workplace planning and policymaking. To achieve this end, the report suggested the appropriate use of better data collection and information infrastructure. The report calls for the balancing of skills and perspectives among all healthcare professionals, which is hampered by the lack of reliable and sufficient data (Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2011). The development of data capturing methodologies across the entire health care profession is necessary to project the needs in health care in terms of role, skills, region, and demographic. In turn, this information will be necessary to inform the education of nurses. 

The nursing profession has a promising future given the important inputs that the nursing profession is getting from different quarters. Based on the recommendations that the report has given, the nursing professionals should be in a position to practice in accordance to their training and education. In the future, nurses will be in positions of leading and diffusing collaborative improvement efforts that will promote healthcare in America. In the future, a good number of nurses will have bachelor and other advanced degrees in the next few years and even pursue lifelong learning. In the future, an infrastructure that will help nurses collect and conduct analysis of inter-professional health care data will be developed.


Blais, K. K. & Hayes, J. S. (2016). Professional nursing practice: Concepts and perspectives (7th ed.). Boston, MO: Pearson.

Fewster-Thuente, L., & Velsor-Friedrich, B. (2008). Interdisciplinary collaboration for healthcare professionals. Nursing administration quarterly, 32(1), 40-48.

Institute of Medicine (US). (2011). Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); Retrieved

Pfaff, K., Baxter, P., Jack, S., & Ploeg, J. (2014). An integrative review of the factors influencing new graduate nurse engagement in interprofessional collaboration. Journal of advanced nursing, 70(1), 4-20.Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health.. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

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