New developments in nursing

14 May 2021 By Michael Bowyer

​In recognition of this year’s theme for International Nurses Day, A Voice to Lead - A vision for future healthcare, we’re looking at some of the latest developments in the important field of nursing. After an interesting period of increased telemedicine and advancements in the way health care is administered, there are some developments and advancements in nursing that we’re particularly excited about!

Why are nursing developments important?

Nursing developments are important for the simple fact that they make nursing duties more efficient, making nurses’ roles easier whilst improving patient care. Developments in nursing come in many different shapes and forms; from education to cultural perception, and even technology.

The latest developments in nursing

1. Going virtual with care

The pandemic had far-reaching effects on the UK healthcare system, but one of the developments within nursing was the rise of telemedicine. This includes virtual or phone appointments, e-consultations, email communication and even wearable medical technology for patients to measure ongoing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

Being able to leverage technology in this way allows nurses to provide more care and appointments to patients, and also lessens the stress and anxiety some patients experience when attending a GP practice, hospital or private facility. Patients also gain confidence that they can have a hand in their own care, and that they will be communicated with quickly.

2. The UK government pledged to tackle the nursing shortage

There are many factors that contribute to the current nursing shortage, from an aging population and a generation of retiring healthcare workers to the broadening remit of nursing duties. What’s more, a recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing suggests that up to 36% of nurses are thinking of leaving the profession after the strain caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and The Commons Public Accounts Committee says that there are, at present, some 40,000 nursing vacancies.

The UK government has pledged to recruit 50,000 new nurses by 2025 by offering incentives for young people to undertake nursing training.

3. Rising awareness of mental health pressures for nurses

The pressures of the pandemic exposed the extreme strain nurses are under, and a new survey by the Nursing Times reveals the negative impact the coronavirus is having on the mental health of nurses. Nine in ten nurses are feeling more stressed and anxious than usual.

To combat this, many healthcare employers now offer wellness action plans and have structured support systems in place to both prevent and relieve the symptoms of stress, anxiety and burnout amongst nurses. The NHS also has many readily available resources to relieve the pressures on individual healthcare professionals, and many wellness apps and services offer discounted prices for nurses.

The most important development in mental health for and within the nursing profession is that there is now an open, and honest discussion going on that recognises the pressures, difficulties and often sacrifices nurses make for patient care.

4. Nurses are playing crucial role in achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030

The RCN report, Leaving No-One Behind, demonstrates that the varied and complex role nurses play in providing equal care to a range of different communities in a trusted way, means that they are in a unique position to deliver the better health outcomes and wider social change – key goals of the SDGs.

The RCN report highlights individual members whose work is helping the UK achieve these goals:

  • Senior staff nurse Harriet Dean-Orange is helping staff in her workplace reduce waste by cutting down on disposable health care items.

  • Mental health nurse Hilda Campbell founded Scottish charity COPE, which highlights the connections between inequalities and mental health problems.

  • Dorcas Gwata uses a public health approach in her outreach work with young people at risk of exploitation.

  • Sarah Chitongo, midwifery educator, has identified systematic and cultural issues that contribute towards the health inequalities experienced by black, Asian and minority ethnic women using maternity services.

Healthcare predictions for the future of nursing

According to Innovate UK, the UK population is predicted to grow by nearly 20% by 2050 (circa 77 million people) with over 65s making up around 25% of the population. Naturally, healthcare will have more and more demands put on it and will continue to push boundaries, evolve and grow.

The Covid pandemic has also acted as a catalyst for change and innovation has sped up the pace of emerging technology and advancements. Predictions to look out for in the future are:

  • Rapidly evolving digital technologies

Telemedicine, enabled medical devices, and blockchain electronic health records are just a few concrete examples of digital transformation in healthcare which are revolutionising the way health professionals interact with patients.

  • Wearable technology

Wearable technology will continue to give patients more autonomy and control over their own healthcare. By being able to constantly monitor their health and have data fed back to update their health records, healthcare workers can identify illness or poor health quickly due to changes in information.

  • Gene editing and nano technology

Revolutions in modern medicine such as gene editing and nano technologies will have a massive impact on both treatment and recovery time. Nano technology has the ability to speed up the healing time for wounds and other injuries and gene editing will play a huge part in dealing with diseases like cancer by allowing us to repair and edit DNA.

  • Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Even a trip to the hospital may become more automated with robots carrying out varying physical tasks such as moving patients and sterilising environments, while AI is used to diagnose and treat patients.

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