Nursing then & now – the new face of nursing – Part 1

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One of our students posing with the nursing staff in Chiang Mai The transformation that the nursing profession has undergone in the past few years has been absolutely fascinating. From their role in healthcare to their salaries, job demands and even the uniforms, today’s nurse is dramatically different from the stereotypical image most of us have about nurses. If you have older family members who were nurses and based on their stories you’ve formed an image of what a typical day would be like, you should know that nursing today is nothing like it was even just 25 years ago. The nursing environment today is more dynamic and more stimulating than ever before. Nurses are no longer thought of as little more than just a physician’s assistant or helper.

Today, nurses are healthcare professionals and leaders in their own right with ample opportunities for prominent leadership roles and further development in any healthcare setting.

 

A look at how the role of nurses has changed over the years

While nurses have always been essential for patient care in all healthcare settings, their role has changed tremendously in the overall healthcare picture. Whereas earlier nurses played a primarily caretaker role under supervision by a doctor, today’s nurse is a respected part of a team that is dedicated to delivering excellent patient care. Today’s nursing professionals are becoming increasingly more specialised and taking on more technologically challenging roles than ever before with advanced nurses even taking over roles that were once reserved only for physicians.

Earlier, nurses followed a narrow predetermined career path. They started off as junior nurses and after several years experience in the organisation, they moved up to a supervisory category. There were very limited options for branching out into any specialties. This is vastly different from the scenario today where nurses can choose to specialise in a wide range of medical specialties. Some of the specialties that exist include ICU nurse, neonatal nurse, paediatric nurse, nurse midwife, operating room nurse, labour and delivery nurse, geriatric nurse, psychiatric nurse, emergency room nurse, and home healthcare nurse and this is naming only a select few.

A solid education, plenty of options for continuing education and ample clinical experience go a long way today to ensure that nurses are on top of their games from the time they graduate from nursing school until they retire from their profession.

In addition to having the option of pursuing a diverse range of nursing fields, nurses can also choose to undergo further education and obtain advanced degrees which allow them to take on more responsibilities and earn higher salaries. Some of the advanced nurses’ degrees that have been introduced in recent years include: 

  • Nurse Midwife – CNM
  • Licensed Practical Nurse – LPN
  • Nurse Anaesthetist – CRNA 
  • Associate’s Degree Registered Nurse – ADN or ADRN
  • Bachelor of Science Degree Registered Nurse – BSN or BSRN
  • Nurse Practitioner – NP
  • Master’s Degree in Nursing – MSN

Part 2 will take a look at how technology has changed nursing, the changing role of men and women in nursing, changes in job demand, salaries and uniforms.

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