Nursing SpecialtiesProfessional Development
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The wave of the future

By: Catherine Spader

Start exploring hot nursing careers.

Opportunities abound for nurses

Nursing is entering an exciting era, and nurses can expect to ride a wave of emerging roles in health care.
wave future donna cardilloMany questions about the future of health­care reform are unanswered, but nurses are certain to be in high demand as stresses on the system continue to grow. Employment of RNs is projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It’s an exciting time because nurses have an opportunity to do even more than we have in the past,” says Donna Cardillo, MA, RN, CSP, The Inspiration Nurse, keynote speaker, and author of The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.

Savvy nurses needed

Nurses who adapt and expand their skills will be in a perfect position to take the lead in addressing mounting challenges in health care, such as:

  • navigating and coordinating an increasingly complex system
  • addressing the health of communities and populations
  • improving quality and safety while containing costs
  • meeting higher demand for preventive and primary care
  • developing and integrating new technologies with patient care.

Hot emerging nursing careers

In-demand specialties for nurses include:

  • care coordination and transition management
  • clinical nurse leader
  • primary care partner
  • health and wellness
  • nursing informatics.

Step into the bigger picture: Care coordination and transition management

wave future Elizabeth greenbergA growing need exists for more nurses to step into the big picture of care coordination and transition management (CCTM). This role has the potential to improve the health and wellness of individuals, families, and populations. It also can reduce healthcare costs, according to M. Elizabeth Greenberg, PhD, RN-BC, C-TNP, president of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.

“CCTM is the biggest and most important role today in ambulatory practice,” she says. “It’s an information- and education-rich practice designed to identify patients’ needs and close the gaps in the healthcare system to ensure those needs are met.”

Nurses who specialize in CCTM practice in many settings, including acute care, and at all levels of care. The roles and titles within the specialty include care coordinator, transitions manager, care manager, and patient care facilitator.


For more information about CCTM and certification.


What CCTM nurses do

Care coordination and transition management (CCTM) nurses use the tools of education, monitoring, communication, and follow-up to address:

  • Individual and family health. CCTM nurses coordinate care for patients with complex or chronic conditions. They help patients and their families navigate and organize care activities among multiple providers, services, and care settings. They also keep everyone in the loop about a patient’s conditions, tests, diagnoses, and treatments.
  • Population health. CCTM nurses use population-based data and evidence-based practices to improve the health and wellness of communities and populations. This includes providing outreach to underserved populations. An important goal is to ensure access to timely care and avoid emergency department (ED) visits and critical exacerbations of illness.

A new role in primary care: Primary care partner

wave future nurseAdvanced practice nurses have played a critical part in primary care for a long time, and RNs without advanced degrees also will be in demand in enhanced roles as primary care partners.

“Primary care is transforming, and the role of the RN in these settings is growing,” says Judith Berg, MS, RN, FACHE, CEO of HealthImpact and immediate past president of the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers.

RN primary care partners team up with a physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice nurse to manage chronic conditions outside acute care settings. They focus on providing individuals, families, and communities with preventive information and supporting them to maintain greater wellness.

Primary care partners can foster wellness by providing services such as intake screening, patient education, coaching, and support for people with complex illnesses. These services are especially key as primary care faces new challenges in the evolving healthcare paradigm, such as value-based payment models, in which payment is related to outcomes.

“The goal is to improve quality while increasing capacity in primary care,” says Berg. “RNs in primary care can help individuals stay healthier and out of the ED and the hospital.”


For more information about the emerging role of primary care partner.


Wellness is our business: Health and wellness nursing

Health and wellness is an expanding area for nurses who want to help keep people healthy throughout their lives. Health and wellness nurses also help people with chronic illness maintain as much health and function as possible.

“Wellness is just as much our business as sickness and illness is, and many nurses today build their practice around health, prevention, and wellness,” says Cardillo.

Nurse health and wellness coach

Nurse health and wellness coaches focus on prevention and health promotion. The opportunities for nurses in health and wellness are growing, including in corporations, healthcare organizations, insurance companies, and fitness centers. Some nurses also own their own wellness consulting companies.

In the corporate sector, these nurses help employees optimize their well-being to enhance the workplace, productivity, and employee satisfaction, and to reduce insurance costs. Corporate wellness programs can include weight-loss programs, wellness assessments, health screenings, nutrition and lifestyle counselling, and fitness programs.

For more information about nurse health and wellness coaching and certification.

Holistic nurse

Today’s healthcare consumers are looking for a broader range of options and want new approaches to wellness that address the whole person. Holistic nurses are in a prime position to fill this demand. Holistic nursing has healing the whole person—mind, body, spirit, and emotion—as its goal.

Holistic nurses work in holistic health and wellness centers, but demand for them is growing in hospitals, corporate wellness programs, fitness centers, and insurance companies. Holistic nurses also may be self-employed and include other specialties within their practices, such as massage therapy, meditation, yoga, and pain and stress management.

For more information about holistic nursing and certification.

How to get your foot in the door of the future

You don’t need an advanced degree or certification to get your foot in the door of a hot nursing specialty. Taking your first step is easy.

“Certification is valuable and beneficial to a nurse’s career, but it’s important to move forward from where you are. Don’t wait until you’re certified to start pursuing the specialty,” says Cardillo.

Begin with networking. Attend a local chapter meeting of a specialty organization or attend a conference. These events are easy to find on specialty organizations’ websites, and they’re a great way to learn more and meet other people working in the specialty.

“Face-to-face networking is the best way to find and get a new job and get into a specialty,” says Cardillo. “It always has been and always will be.”

More tips

In addition to networking, here are other ways to get your foot in the door.

  • Self-study. Go to a specialty organization’s website and look for their continuing education offerings.
  • Seek out a mentor. Check a specialty organization’s website for information for students or about job shadowing or mentor programs.
  • Volunteer. For example, if you’re interested in health and wellness coaching, volunteer to start a program or get involved with one at your current job. Being an RN already makes you qualified and licensed in health and wellness.

“As nurses, we need to give ourselves more credit for our vast body of knowledge and expertise,” says Cardillo. “Expand your vision and learn new things. It’s never too late to change specialties.”

Prepare for an innovative future

Nursing education is transforming to better prepare nurses for roles in the evolving healthcare system. Here are three innovative programs.

Promoting health and quality of life along the care continuum

Jefferson College of Nursing, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This BSN program shifts the focus of nursing education from episodic illness care to health promotion. It emphasizes the promotion of health and quality of life in a variety of populations during transitions of care from one setting to another.

Master’s of healthcare innovation

The Ohio State University, Columbus

This online program streamlines the path to development of healthcare leaders while integrating personal wellness with the principles of innovation and change.

Healthcare informatics

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

These programs prepare nurses to plan, select, design, and implement emerging technologies that advance consumer engagement, support clinical decision-making, promote safety, and drive quality care.


Catherine Spader is a medical and healthcare writer/editor in Littleton, Colorado.


Selected reference

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 edition: Registered Nurses.

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