News in Nursing

Nursing: A Way Out of Poverty and into the Computer Age?

Nursing might be the answer to poverty.

Nursing: A Way Out of Poverty and into the Computer Age?

Healthcare jobs are expected to be at least a third of all jobs in the US over the next decade. Healthcare urgently needs educated and proficient workers as this is an exploding field since the dynamic of Americans ages 65 and older, who need health care, will double by 2060. As the population ages, more nurses will be required to take care of this population.

Many health care jobs like home health care and CNAs, are popular but only pay minimum wage and leave workers at poverty levels. If you take your caring personality, and go to college for a nursing degree, you can earn a median of $68,450. For example, in Philadelphia, there are 20 hospitals within 10 miles of nursing programs colleges and universities. Once you have graduated, these hospitals pay registered nurses an average of $72,082. Nursing can be a way out of poverty, but it takes hard work, education, and dedication.

Not only is nursing an up and coming high wage career, but nursing has a bit of immunity from automation. Nursing is about interacting with people and having excellent interpersonal skills that computers, robots and AI just can’t do.

Becoming a nurse isn’t a cakewalk. Technological advances are making it harder, and the requirements of becoming a nurse are stringent. They must be; nurses have the lives of their patients in their hands.

Nurses must have critical thinking skills, the ability to do the intermediate math, and know how to use computers and up-an-coming artificial assistants.

Studies have unfortunately reported that today’s high school graduates don’t have the critical thinking, math skills, and interpersonal skills needed to become a healthcare professional. Care is becoming more data-driven and complex, plus AI (artificial intelligence – robots) is starting to enlarge nursing jobs. Colleges need to up their training in the nursing field and work closely with high schools to provide the necessary critical courses to work in the healthcare field.

“There’s a huge gap in understanding among guidance counselors about what nurses do,” said Janet Haebler, a senior associate director at the American Nurses Association and a former community college instructor. “Many don’t understand the basics that need to be built early on,” she said. “It does require a heavy background in math and science.” It also entails critical thinking and data analysis.”

A bachelor’s degree in nursing requires courses in Algebra I and II, pharmacology, epidemiology, mental health, psychology, and human development and growth. Many of these courses need a student to know where to find answers, research, and the ability to think on your feet.

To this end, there is a national push to require nurses to have more than just medical training. The Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation stated that at least 80 percent of nurses must hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020. Community college graduates can find nursing jobs at long-term care facilities and nonhospital settings, and they can also begin their nursing careers, but many hospital RN positions are demanding a baccalaureate with high math and computer knowledge.

The challenges of obtaining a nursing degree

Just passing a two-year degree is challenging. Students need to graduate from intermediate-level algebra, and most high school students are unprepared students to pass this course. Little preparation means that students must first take remedial math and pass that course. After enrolling in nursing programs, the student takes math competency tests, and these tests cover essential topics like converting milligrams to grams. Reports state that only half of the 120 students in the Philadelphia community college programs could pass this test. A search through other nursing programs shows comparable statistics.

Nursing students who have taken off years before going to college, find it challenging to pass math and computer requirements. Students tend not to have the confidence and education to work through math problems. Students who have had bad experiences with math and feel they can’t do it no matter how hard they try, often quit the nursing program. It is up to the instructors to break through this mindset and let students know that there is help in gaining math and computer skills are possible.

Another challenge of getting a nursing degree is the unrealistic expectations. Deborah Rossi, head of the allied health department at C.C.P is astounded that potential nursing students don’t want to see blood. Isn’t the medical field all about taking care of those who are injured and have wounds? An interesting challenge!

Still another challenge is the computer skills necessary to be a nurse. Rapid changes are coming to the nursing field. Joan Stanley, chief academic officer with the Amerian Association of Colleges of Nursing, states that now is the time to emphasize new areas of practice. The student needs to learn how to use big data, utilize AI programs to improve outcomes and diagnoses, and how to evaluate these diagnoses and data.

Computer-Aided health care knowledge

To many students at C.C.P. and other nursing programs, just navigating through computer networks is challenging. Most students are not worried about talking with their patients, they have strong interpersonal skills, but trying to manage the math, data comprehending skills, and navigating through complicated computer programs is a trial.

“This is health care for the fourth industrial revolution,” said Benjamin Pring, co-founder of the Center for the Future of Work at the technology company Cognizant, which released a report in November identifying “AI-assisted health care technician” among 21 “jobs of the future.” In a future envisioned by Cognizant, “in-depth patient care and diagnosis is no longer the preserve of doctors with seven years of qualifications.” It requires medical professionals like doctors and nurses knowing how to manage computer programs and AI functions.

Another testimony of the AI age coming into medical care, The Robots are Coming: A Human’s Survival Guide to Profiting in the Age of Automation states "Bottom line, any routine job that can easily be defined by a mathematical or logic equation will be at risk.” Nursing is not routine, but it does take the necessary skills to manage prescriptions, injections, and how to figure out how much medication a patient needs according to their weight and condition. Figuring out medication dosages takes computer and thinking skills.

Take heart, potential nurses. Those who are good at people-facing jobs will always be needed. But, you will need computer skills to navigate through electronic medical record systems, managing electronic prescriptions and use personal digital assistants or PDA.

Computerization is an excellent contribution towards the reducing of medical errors and problems that come with having timely access to patient information. Computers will assist nurses with client monitoring, decision making, and bedside documentation. Nurses need to learn how to utilize these features, input and output modalities, and functions that are most helpful to a nurse’s job.

AI will not take over the patient facing duties and care that nurses give, but AI and computerization can significantly contribute to the efficiency of nurses. Who knows, if you have a computer degree in addition to your nursing degree, you might just demand a higher salary.