A nursing student in a lecture hall raises their hand to ask a question
A nursing student in a lecture hall raises their hand to ask a question

If you're a working nurse, demand for your skills is set to skyrocket.

Australia's healthcare system has always relied on the skills of nurses, and the COVID-19 pandemic threw this into sharp relief. The future of nursing in Australia is extremely strong: nursing was among Australia's top five most in-demand healthcare jobs in 2023. As Australia's population ages, this demand is likely to exceed supply. A 2021 McKinsey & Company survey found that by 2025, between 20,000 and 40,000 nursing positions could be unfilled.

But the nursing industry isn't just growing – it's evolving too. More than ever, nurses will need to adapt to changes in technology, models of care, management practices and medical knowledge. Experts are projecting that the amount of change coming will be transformative: the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, for example, predicts there'll be more change in health care in the next decade than there's been in the last century. Nurses will often be tasked with leading the change, making nurse leadership an ever more important skill.

While a growth mindset will certainly be required, these challenges present huge opportunities for individual nurses with the right education, both in terms of earning capacity and career advancement.

Future trends in nursing

Current and future trends in nursing will continue to shape the field and present new challenges. Nurses will need to continue to adapt to ensure that they provide high-quality patient care.

Advancing care for an ageing population

Several countries around the world are urgently rethinking their healthcare systems to adapt to their ageing populations. By 2050, around one-quarter of Australians will be 65 or over. As a result, a substantial increase in chronic disease and disability is set to dominate the healthcare workload.

This will increase demand for specialised nurses who can deliver advanced care for patients with conditions such as arthritis, dementia, cancer and type 2 diabetes. The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care recognises the vital role of nurses in chronic disease management, alleviating the workload of general practitioners. They coordinate large multi-disciplinary teams and educate and advocate for patients, as well as perform crucial administrative and clinical work. The ageing population represents opportunities for numerous different types of nurses in Australia, as this population will have different needs.

With labour shortages expected across all areas of health care, qualified nurses will be relied on to step up and supplement medical services, with less-qualified nurses supporting them to deliver this advanced capacity. This is especially true in rural and remote areas, where nurses are often the primary care workforce.

To prepare for this trend, nurses need to be able to perform health assessments, which cater for patients with comprehensive health histories and often multiple issues.

The Advanced Practice pathway in the JCU Online Master of Nursing program is designed to empower nurses to take on this greater responsibility and be more independent in their decision making. It does so through teaching essential skills, including how to conduct an advanced health assessment and apply diagnostic reasoning, especially when a patient may be suffering from multiple comorbidities.

Communication, technology and data

Working nurses won't be surprised to read that technology is changing health care. They've been at the coalface of introducing technologies to patients for the past decade. Thanks to wearable devices and digital health records, nurses have access to ever-increasing patient data, making the field of nurse informatics even more important. Nurses will also lead the charge in delivering in-home diagnosis and care, empowered by point-of-care testing and video conferencing.

With all this extra responsibility, nurses' interpersonal skills will be more crucial than ever. Baby Boomers are likely to have different expectations of health services than previous generations. Technology can help improve patient experiences for this generation, but nurses will need to learn how to effectively master digital tools. In 2023 and beyond, nurses may begin to use generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as chatbots and natural language processing.

For nurses, understanding the intersection of communication, technology and data is critical, and those who do will be more likely to be considered for leadership positions given the proliferation of technology in the healthcare workforce going forward.

Nurses who master modern communication skills can be preferred for leadership and educator positions as these tools become more commonplace.

Educating the next generation

Parallel to the ageing population, more than four million nurses are expected to retire globally between 2020 and 2030.

A mass retirement of nurses means losing decades of experience, with not nearly enough nurses to replace them. This is a particular problem for the future of nursing in Australia considering the current and future shortage of nurse educators who mentor and educate younger and mid-career nurses.

Nurses who want to specialise in this area need special skills, including understanding how to teach and coach other nurses and develop healthcare curricula. These skills offer many career opportunities, including the option to become a nurse educator or take on a managerial role.

Leading change

Nursing leaders and managers will be charged with managing the cost implications of the ageing population and embedding change practices in the nursing workforce. That includes taking on leadership roles in redesigning care. Key strategies will be productivity, a greater focus on preventive care and health promotion.

However, there are acute shortages in the nursing profession, with fewer people now entering as a result of decreased birth rates, nurses leaving the profession post-pandemic and more.

While it's hoped that large numbers of newly qualified nurses will enter the workforce, what about the leadership gap left behind? There's a significant opportunity here for current nurses to step up and take the lead.

While leadership skills can be acquired through experience, JCU Online's Leadership and Management pathway can accelerate this process for nurses new to the profession. It focuses on developing well-rounded leaders with the ability to implement strategic change, teaching specific skills in business and finance, ethics in health management and conflict resolution.

How education can help prepare nurses for the future

As nurses enter the workforce to meet the demand, postgraduate nursing opportunities can help you stand out and take control of your career and income.

The JCU Online Master of Nursing can be tailored to the following career pathways, building on the skills and knowledge you've acquired in the field:

  • Advanced Practice, allowing you to take on extra responsibility in a clinical setting, with specialised skills in patient assessment, pharmacology and care
  • Leadership and Management, preparing you for senior roles
  • Education, qualifying you as a nurse educator.

Whichever pathway fits your career goals, the Master of Nursing will equip you with broad skills to embrace the changes ahead in health care: communication, informatics and clinical governance. Importantly, all students will learn how to understand and apply research to deliver evidence-based patient care.

Prepare for the future of nursing in Australia today

With the changing nature of nursing and an abundance of new technology and opportunities to lead, there's never been a better time to accelerate your nursing career. One of the best ways to advance is to study for a postgraduate qualification.

If you'd like to qualify for leadership roles, teach the next generation of nurses or provide advanced patient care, find out how JCU Online's Master of Nursing can help create a rewarding career pathway and prepare for the future of nursing in Australia.


Find out more about JCU’s online Master of Nursing.

Get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 535 919

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