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Future health care offers exciting range of nursing roles

Photo: Future health care offers exciting range of nursing roles
By Dr John Smithson, senior lecturer in the College of Healthcare Sciences and the Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Research at James Cook University

Look around you at work, and then try imagining how things will be 10 or 15 years from now.

There’ll be some important changes – technology for monitoring patients living great distances away, connections to vast stores of clinical data, fellow nurses in new clinical specialties, others leading diverse teams of professionals in collaborative care protocols.

Will you have the skills to manage all this? The demographic and technological changes coming our way mean nurses will need to adapt, learn and grow to take their place in the new world of health care.

Tomorrow’s nurses will need to understand fields such as data management, patient privacy and predictive analytics to forecast patient demand and support clinical and operational decisions.
Many will have to learn how to operate technologies that deliver care, educate and connect with patients and efficiently apply limited resources for individual and community benefit. 

With such a revolution in the wings, the industry can’t simply wait for the next generation of nurses to gradually gain the experience they need to move into positions being vacated by senior nurses preparing for retirement.

The solution is postgraduate study.  Nurses can seed up their skills acquisition and their career progression, and as described in research by Deloitte Access Economics, be financially rewarded.

The report, The future of work: Occupational and education trends in nursing in Australia, examines present and future job numbers and incomes in five related occupations: registered nurses; registered midwives; nurse managers; nurse educators and researchers; and general managers in the health care and social assistance industry.

Deloitte found that nurses with postgraduate qualifications in the five occupations were earning $95,391 in 2016-17, 45 per cent more than workers with no postgraduate qualifications.

Deloitte predicts that by 2021-22, postgraduate-qualified nurses in these occupations will be earning $111,235 – a 17 per cent increase. Over a career, the difference will compound to a lifetime earnings premium worth 129 per cent compared to nurses with no postgraduate qualifications.

Total employment is also expected to rise. In 2016-17, the five categories employed about 308,000 nurses, but Deloitte predicts this figure will be 354,000 in 2021-22, an increase of 46,000 jobs and equivalent to a 2.8 per cent increase each year over the five years, above the overall Australian workforce jobs growth forecast of just 1.5 per cent growth per annum.

Demand for nursing workforce also means increased demand for nurse leaders. Postgraduate study can enable nurses to take up leadership opportunities earlier in their careers. As well as accelerating career advancement, the upskilling should improve retention of mid-career nurses in the profession.

With an ageing population placing increased pressure on existing health-related services, nurses who are qualified to deliver advanced care and extended practice – as well as those with leadership and management skills – will be in high demand.   Postgraduate qualifications can help accelerate the acquisition of high-demand skills and attributes in additional areas such as advanced patient assessment, diagnostic reasoning, data management, financial and human resource management and leadership.

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