Updated February 9, 2022.
If you’re looking for information about nursing trends in 2022, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together a list of top nursing trends we expect to see in 2022 and beyond based on the latest data and insights from American Nurse Today, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and other sources.
The medical field, particularly nursing, was already undergoing dramatic changes before the pandemic. As the current field of nurses becomes more educated, they have an opportunity to take on expanded roles and fill a drastic need in the years to come. Read on to learn what to expect in the ever-changing world of nursing in 2022.
1. Online education programs will continue to increase in popularity.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) appointed the Committee on the Future of Nursing to put together recommendations for an action-oriented response to some of the challenges being faced by nurses.
One of their key recommendations was to increase the percentage of workers holding a BSN degree from 50 to 80% by 2020. In 2018, New York became the first state to pass a law requiring nurses to earn a BSN within 10 years of becoming licensed. Many other states have plans to adopt similar legislation.
In light of these changes, and in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the motivation for nurses to pursue higher education is stronger than ever. Online nursing degree programs provide a way for nurses to obtain a degree while continuing to work full-time, opening the door to higher education without the need to sacrifice work-related responsibilities or family obligations.
2. The shortage of primary care physicians will create an even greater demand for Family Nurse Practitioners.
Recent research from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that the United States could face a shortage of up to 55,200 primary care physicians by 2032, due in part to a growing, aging population.
Without enough primary care physicians to care for the population, the demand for Family Nurse Practitioners will be high, especially in those states where FNPs have full practice authority. In May 2021, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reported 325,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the United States. We expect this number to continue to grow.
Another factor in the increasing demand for FNPs is the closure of rural hospitals, which significantly impacts healthcare. Between 2010 and January 1, 2020, 7% (120 in total) of all rural hospitals closed their doors. A study reported in Forbes found that another 453 rural hospitals are vulnerable and may also close.
Nearly 20% of the United States population, or 60 million people, live in rural areas, and are already finding it challenging to obtain health care. Another issue impacting residents in these areas is the insufficiency of doctors. FNPs can perform check-ups, physicals, etc. for patients who might otherwise be stuck waiting extended periods for an appointment with a doctor.
3. A greater number of states will grant Nurse Practitioners full practice authority.
As a further response to the primary care physician shortage, more states should begin to grant Nurse Practitioners the authority to practice independently. Currently, 27 states and U.S. territories grant nurse practitioners full practice authority, while other states require collaborative agreement with a supervising physician or have restrictions on practice.
Given the pressing need for primary care providers and the fact that both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing recommend that states provide NPs full practice authority, there are increasing pressures on the remaining states to follow suit.
4. We will see significant job growth for nurses in 2022.
The numbers are clear: both in the U.S. and globally, there is a shortage of Registered Nurses that is expected to intensify as the Baby Boomer population ages, the need for care providers grows and health care workers continue to combat COVID-19.
The nursing shortage has only intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals and other health care environments struggle under unprecedented patient loads.
Even pre-COVID, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected Registered Nursing to be one of the top occupations for job growth through 2030, expected to grow by 9% (much faster than average), and reported 276,800 new RN jobs will be added by the year 2030.
This demand stems from the fact that the United States has an aging population. By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau states 20% of the population will be of retirement age. And by 2034, there will be more people above 65 than below 18. It is expected that there will be a 55,000 plus shortage of primary care physicians by 2032 with many of today’s doctors retiring. An aging population will need access to medical professionals and FNPs are equipped to help fill this void.
The lack of nurse educators is another issue. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing report explains, ”More than 75,000 qualified applicants to bachelor and graduate nursing programs were turned away last year due to factors like insufficient faculty, clinical sites or classroom space, as well as budget constraints.”
5. Salaries for Registered Nurses will stay steady or increase.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 has had a terrible impact on hospital finances, nurses surveyed by the American Nurse Journal report that they have continued to receive salary increases. It comes as no surprise, then, that the U.S. News & World Report ranked RN as #12 (up from #13 in 2020) on its list of 100 Best Jobs of 2022, and ranked Nurse Practitioner as #2 (up from #5).
The rise in nurses' salaries is especially true for FNPs whose median annual pay in 2020 was $111,680 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This was $36,350 more than RN Nurses with a bachelor's degree. FNPs in the highest 10 percent of earners averaged $190,900 in annual salary.
Medical facilities are also using other incentives to entice nurses. CNN reported that some facilities are offering nurses various perks and incentives such as “five-figure signing bonuses, free housing, college tuition for employees and their children.” They aim to both recruit and retain nurses.
6. Higher education degrees will become the norm.
Another 2022 nursing trend we expect to see is growth in the number of nurses pursuing higher education.
As mentioned above, the Institute of Medicine set a goal in 2010 of achieving an 80% BSN-holding nursing workforce by 2020. That same report also called to double the number of nurses with a doctoral degree by 2020.
Several indicators point to progress:
- Enrollment at baccalaureate nursing programs increased by 5.6% from 2019 to 2020.
- Master’s nursing programs experienced a 4.1% enrollment increase from 2019 to 2020.
- Doctoral nursing programs reported an 8.9% increase in enrollment from 2019 to 2020.
- Bachelor, graduate, and doctoral nursing programs have experienced enrollment growth from 2006 to 2021.
Several independent studies have shown that an increase in the number of RNs holding at least a BSN degree decreases the risk of patient mortality. With such strong evidence that more education leads to better patient outcomes and nursing degrees trending upward, expect higher education to become the norm for Registered Nurses moving into 2022 and beyond.
7. More states will join the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, making it easier for nurses to move across state lines.
The enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) was officially implemented on January 19, 2018. The compact, coordinated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), makes it substantially easier for travel nurses to work across state lines.
In 2020, Indiana became the latest state to sign the compact’s provisions into law, bringing the total number of states that have enacted and implemented the eNLC to 34. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont have approved eNLC for implementation in 2022 with pending legislation in five other states.
8. Telehealth and chatbot services are making it easier for patients to access care.
Telehealth visits in March 2020 increased by 154% year-over-year. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for virtual health care. That’s why we predict telehealth and chatbot services will continue to be the norm in some aspects of the nurse’s role in 2022.
With telehealth technology, patients can manage certain aspects of their own health care by accessing an online portal to see their test results, schedule appointments and request prescription refills. Virtual appointments enable them to see their nurse or doctor via live video feed.
Similarly, chatbots can assist patients with things like booking appointments and reminding them to take certain medications. For example, Florence is a chatbot nurse that monitors patients’ health, gives instructions and reminders for taking pills, and helps them find specialists in their area.
In 2017, over three-quarters of American hospitals had implemented a telehealth system according to The American Hospital Association. Compare this to 2010 when the same organization had noted just 35% of hospitals offering such capabilities.
Telehealth has faced some legislative restrictions regarding Medicare payments in the past. As the rules related to payments and other regulations are eased, barriers to its growth will be lessened.
Relaxation of rules around reimbursement for telehealth visits in the wake of COVID-19 has shown health care providers and patients alike how well the systems can work.
Besides working for patients with minor complaints, telehealth visits are a boon for nurses, therapists and providers who can use the technology to manage patients with mobility challenges and/or who are at especially high risk if exposed to the coronavirus.
9. Bilingual nurses will be more valued.
The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse. A 2015 report by the U.S. Census Bureau reported that at least 350 languages are spoken in American homes.
Next to English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the United States. An estimated 40 million U.S. residents, or 13% of the population, speak Spanish at home.
Bilingualism is becoming increasingly valued as a skill for nurses to have. Nurses who speak a second language, especially Spanish, may be more attractive to employers than monolingual nurses in 2022.
10. More nurses will choose to specialize.
Nurses today are expected to specialize, and this is a trend that will only continue in 2022.
Nursing is a career where there is greater demand at higher levels of practice than the lower ones. Nurses who choose to specialize find that they are in higher demand and can often command higher salaries.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Registered Nurses have a median salary of $75,330 and a projected job growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030. But Nurse Practitioners will enjoy even brighter prospects for employment and salary. According to BLS, they earn a median annual wage of $111,680 and their employment will grow by 45%.
From family health to psychiatry, there are many advanced specialties that nurses can choose to focus their career on in 2022.
11. The proportion of male nurses will continue to rise.
Nursing remains a female-dominated profession, but slowly that is beginning to change. The American Association for Men in Nursing continues to advocate for greater numbers of men in nursing programs throughout the United States and the world.
Since 1960, there has been a clear trend toward increasing numbers of male nurses. The share of nurses who are male went up from 2.2% in 1960 to 12% in 2019. As stigma fades and more men realize the benefits of a career in nursing, we expect the proportion of male nurses to increase.
12. More focus will be placed on holistic care.
Holistic care is a method for treating the whole patient. Holistic nurses recognize each patient’s unique physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental strengths and weaknesses.
The global body of evidence about the benefits of holistic care is growing.
A 2017 study from Sweden found that patients of APRNs who provided holistic care were satisfied with the quality and accessibility. Similar results were shown in a 2020 study of patients with permanent colostomies in Hong Kong. Those who received holistic care intervention reported better outcomes than patients who received routine care.
Increasingly, U.S. hospitals and other health care facilities are emphasizing integrative and holistic health in their delivery models. At Carson-Newman, our online MSN-FNP program and online Post-Master's FNP Certificate programs place a major focus on holistic care.
13. Nurses with technological skills will be in high demand.
Technology is ever-present in the modern world of health care, and the pace of reliance on technology has continued to increase during the pandemic in 2020. Nurses today use a wide range of technologically driven approaches to increase their efficiency, including Electronic Health Records to track health history and Smart Beds to optimize patient positioning.
Nurses’ use of mobile devices is also rising. Between 2017 and 2022, a Zebra Technologies study predicts that the percentage of bedside nurses who use mobile devices in their practice will increase from 65 to 97%. The same study shows that mobile technology can improve cost-savings, care quality and patient safety.
Technology in nursing is here to stay, and nurses will need to become confident and comfortable with it at an increasing pace.
14. The field of health informatics will become more mainstream.
In response to the influx of health care technology, a brand new field has arisen: health informatics. This growing specialization uses data collected by information technology systems to create a more collaborative environment between a patient and his or her various health care providers.
One survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society found that respondents reported a direct positive impact on the quality of care patients received as a result of the work of informatics nurses. With a high average salary and a very good job outlook, this specialization should attract even more interest in 2022.
15. Patients are becoming more educated.
In the era of smart devices, more people are consuming more information at all times. This includes health-related information. Nurses can now expect to see patients who have already researched their conditions or symptoms online and may have an understanding of which medications might be right for them based on pharmaceutical advertisements they have seen.
Nurses in 2022, especially Nurse Practitioners, must be prepared to serve a more educated patient population by listening to the patient’s own views about their health condition and synthesizing this information with the nurse’s own professional knowledge and expertise.
16. We will see an increase in cost-effective urgent care clinics.
The lines between the retail and health care industries are blurring. Retail health clinic services offered by major players, such as Walgreens and CVS, provide an alternative channel for the provision of primary care. They are majorly disrupting the health care landscape.
Future Market Insights estimates an annual growth rate of 10.4% in the global market for retail clinics through 2028. Researchers pointed to patient accessibility and affordability in explaining this growth.
This is good news for Nurse Practitioners, as many NPs have already opted to open up their own clinics within such retail locations.
17. Nursing faculty positions will become more attractive.
The demand for registered nurses may be growing, but paradoxically many institutes of higher education have been forced to turn away qualified applicants due to an ongoing nursing faculty shortage.
According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report on Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools had to turn away 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in recent years. The AACN identifies budget constraints, an aging faculty and increasing job competition from clinical sites as factors contributing to the faculty shortage.
As a response to this crisis, many initiatives are already underway to make nursing faculty positions more attractive to qualified nurses. One example of such an initiative is the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program, which provides financial support to more than 1,400 scholars in all 50 states with the goal of expanding the pipeline of future nursing faculty.
18. The demand for geriatric specialists will rise.
America is aging. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that by 2050, one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. And yet a paper from the National Academy of Medicine reports that “Fewer than 1% of registered nurses and fewer than 3% of advanced practice registered nurses are certified in geriatrics.”
More geriatric nurses will be required to deal with an aging and ailing population of Baby Boomers. New nurses entering the field in 2022 may wish to be at the forefront of this highly sought-after specialty by becoming certified in Geriatric Care Management.
19. More awareness will be given to common issues being faced by nurses.
Nurses have been on the front lines of the global effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. The peaks and valleys of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have created untenable stresses for some nurses.
A Morning Consult poll found 18% of healthcare workers - including nurses - left their jobs between February 2020 and September 2021. The reasons for this exodus were identified in the 2021 AMN Healthcare Survey of Registered Nurses:
- High levels of stress at work
- Concerns about work-life balance
- Difficulty recovering from emotional toll of work
- Impact of work on physical health
But there is some good news. AMN found 64% of nurses were likely to encourage others to join the profession and 66% were likely to stay with their current employers. They believe in the work they are doing and its value to the world.
The awareness of nursing issues has grown this past year. More organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, are emphasizing the importance of self-care to guard nurses against the effects of job-related stressors.
20. Nurses are retiring later.
While the U.S. is indeed facing a nursing shortage, older nurses are delaying retirement. The number of nurses ages 65 and over increased from 14.6% in 2017 to 19% in 2021. That’s according to the latest National Nursing Workforce Study conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Instead of retiring, many full-time nurses are shifting to part-time work. In 2018, the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis reported that 37.5% of nurses ages 65 to 69 worked part-time. The percentage nearly doubles for nurses over age 70 (71.3%).
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, some retired nurses have started working again. In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urged states to re-license retired health care workers so that they can quickly re-enter the workforce.
The trend toward later retirement is expected to continue in 2022. What does this mean for new nurses entering the field? While job opportunities will still be plentiful, they may be limited mainly to hospital settings because older RNs tend to move to non-hospital environments.
21. Nurse practitioners will play an important role in the ongoing management of COVID-19.
FNPs and other nurse practitioners will remain key players in the battle against COVID-19 in 2022. The pandemic forced the full or partial relaxation of practice restrictions in 21 states on a temporary basis, providing a boost to the numbers of care providers available.
NPs will continue to provide critical services, including the following.
NPs provide education and counseling that help patients identify COVID-19 symptoms and protect themselves and others from getting the virus. They also improve patients’ overall well-being through disease prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices.
NPs will remain on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2022, you can expect NPs to provide a full range of primary, acute and specialty health care services in a variety of settings.
NPs will also be involved in conducting coronavirus-related research and applying findings to their clinical practice.
22. Automation frees nurses to tackle more complex challenges
Nurses carry out repetitive tasks each day in service of their patients. These tasks can be physically demanding and monotonous when completed hundreds of times per shift. Robots and other automation tools are increasingly used in clinical settings to handle basic jobs.
Moxi from Diligent Robotics is a self-operating robot that delivers medical supplies to exam rooms in several Texas hospitals. Henry Ford Health System deploys Xenex LightStrike robots to disinfect surfaces with UV-C after exams and in-patient stays. Brigham and Women’s Hospital uses Boston Dynamics robots to measure vitals of COVID-19 patients.
The future of nursing will see robots increasingly involved in diagnostics and procedures. In 2022, nurses may share the halls with robot colleagues that ease their workload.
Stay Ahead of Nursing Trends
As a family nurse practitioner, you can bridge gaps in primary care. At Carson-Newman University, you’ll experience a transformative education through our online Master of Science in Nursing- Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) program or online Post-Master’s FNP Certificate.
Our FNP students benefit from these distinctive Carson-Newman advantages:
- Flexible, online coursework with no mandatory login times, so you can continue working full-time or part-time as you study
- Small-sized classrooms to accommodate your learning needs
- Ongoing clinical placement services, so you can focus on your studies and maintain work-study-life balance
- A dedicated Student Success Advisor who will support you from start to finish
Ranked #1 in Best Healthcare Jobs by U.S. News in 2022, as an FNP you’ll empower your career as a holistic leader in primary care.