Trends in Nursing Education: What to Expect for the Future

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Two nursing students use nursing education technology while supervised by an online instructor.More than ever, nurses are expected to enter the workforce knowing how to utilize new technology in everyday settings, so nurse educators are expected to teach the information effectively. The latest developments in learning — including virtual learning and adaptive technologies — help nurse educators provide better student outcomes, including better scores on certification and credentials exams and increased preparedness for real-world practice.

While some of these tech-driven trends in nursing education appear futuristic, most are extensions of everyday life. Concepts like virtual conferencing, smartphones, and apps are so thoroughly woven into a student’s lifestyle that applying them in the context of a nurse educator’s curriculum is a seamless process for most students.

Higher education institutions that fully embrace integrating tech trends large and small into the context of their nursing instructional strategies can have an advantage over programs that approach tech with apprehension. By embracing tech, nurse educators impart a holistic, contemporary curriculum that can prepare students for the current landscape of patient care, while also equipping them to meet future trends.

Nursing Education Technology

The use of technology and innovation in education has long been of interest to researchers. A 2021 report on tech trends in nursing education, published jointly by Wolters Kluwer and the National League for Nursing (NLN), identified several factors in predicting the future success of online teaching and learning in nursing:

Tech Adoption in a Post-COVID Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated ongoing tech-driven practices such as remote and online instruction. This trend is not likely to reverse itself after the pandemic ceases.

Encourage Deeper Learning Experiences

As tech innovations like virtual reality become more commonplace, students must be prepared to effectively make a connection between their coursework and the real world. Methods that include project-based and challenge-based learning foster experiential learning.

Focus on New Ways to Measure Learning Outcomes

With changes to technology, online education, and blended coursework, higher education institutions must redesign testing measures to determine subject mastery.

Improve Technology Infrastructures

Increasing the availability of upgraded wireless bandwidth, using 3D content for lab simulations, and developing ways for distance interactions with objects, such as a human body in an anatomy lab, can improve student access to learning.

Increase Blended Learning Opportunities

Committing to a future where concepts like hybrid learning become commonplace will allow nurse educators to reach students effectively and efficiently, regardless of where they are when they attend class.

Scale Up Learning Opportunities

Cloud-based services and other digital tools give nurse educators a wider platform for reaching more students. This could allow more nursing students to attend programs. This evolution is crucial. It is estimated that more than 80,000 qualified nursing school applicants were refused admittance from programs in 2019 due to issues like faculty shortages and classroom site unavailability, according to a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Innovation in Nursing Education

At the same time, multiple studies show technology continues to support new ways of learning. The joint report from Wolters Kluwer and the NLN revealed that 73% of institutions went exclusively online at the pandemic’s outset and that 40% would be offering more online courses in the future. Additionally, the report also noted that 48% of institutions planned to increase investments in virtual simulation over the next two years.

Technology tools have allowed online nurse educators to reach students in more ways than ever. For example, Duquesne University’s nursing faculty found students who participate in online communities and discussion forums are engaged and committed to their education. The following are some of the ways Duquesne University nursing educators engage nursing students for a better mastery of skills:

Virtual Patients

Virtual patients allow students to assess and diagnose medical problems while giving educators the opportunity to provide feedback. Duquesne University uses Shadow Health’s Digital Clinical Experience for fully immersive online clinical practice. Using a virtual patient known as Tina Jones, students can perform physical assessments, differential diagnoses, and medical management.

Virtual Communities

Created through a Duquesne University student-faculty collaboration, the virtual community Dusonburgh allows students to interact with made-up characters with varied social and health backgrounds and learn more about population-based health and primary care.

Testing and Assessment Integrity

Using the nursing education software Examsoft, Duquesne University’s nursing educators create secure online exams that test performance and the effectiveness of the coursework.

Course Management

Faculty and students stay in contact through web-based discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and real-time video conferencing. Educators deliver content, homework and classwork assignments, and tests via online platforms.

Synchronous Coursework

Studies show students value live classes that allow them to interact with peers and faculty in an online classroom setting.

Telehealth in Nursing

In 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) recommended that all nurse practitioners learn the essentials of telehealth. The recommendation meant NP programs should cover telehealth skills and best practices in their curriculums.

“It is essential that NPs are empowered with telehealth knowledge and hands-on skills so that they can be a creative force for innovations in telehealth within the practice and healthcare systems,” the organization said in “NONPF Supports Telehealth in Nurse Practitioner Education.”

“NP programs have the opportunity to be at the forefront of healthcare as they develop telehealth education programs and prepare to respond to the challenges ahead by promoting innovation through telehealth education.”

Indeed, the NONPF was ahead of its time. In 2020, as COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, telehealth provided a crucial and safe link between patients and their providers.

However, telehealth comes with some concerns and challenges. Nurse educators engaging in telehealth training should inform students of these important aspects that directly impact patients:

  • Privacy: Because gathering personal medical information is vital to comprehensive care, clinicians should know how to do so not only confidentially but also with sensitivity. Clinicians should determine if the patient is comfortable with sharing his or her private medical history online.
  • Virtual exams: An essential part of a nurse’s job is interpreting a patient’s body language and physical appearance for clues to the state of the patient’s health and well-being. During virtual exams, picking up these clues can be difficult, so nurses must pay close attention to patient signs and signals.
  • Remote monitoring: Nurses who use telehealth must understand how to use remote patient monitoring to track patients’ vital signs and daily health. Remote monitoring allows nurses and other clinicians to contact patients who have a change in their health status and intervene in their care before a health emergency arises.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Nurse Educators

As trailblazers in nursing instruction, it is vital for nurse educators to be leaders who advance technology in healthcare. This means not only having a full grasp of current trends such as online learning and telehealth but also keeping an eye out for emerging trends such as virtual systems. Doing so will put them at the forefront of progressive health and wellness strategies.

Leaders in the nursing education field acknowledge the barriers between working as a nurse clinician and moving to a nurse educator position. Duquesne University works to bridge the gap between clinician and educator for the betterment of the nursing profession.

Build a Better Future

Innovation has always been at the heart of healthcare, and nurse educators play a vital role in instilling an adaptive mindset in the next generation of nurses. By providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to leverage the tech of today while keeping on top of the tech of tomorrow, nurse educators help push healthcare forward.

Duquesne University has been a leader in online nursing education since introducing the first online Ph.D. in Nursing program in 1997. The university’s online MSN program allows students worldwide to actively participate in virtual learning programs, digital clinical experiences, and virtual population health simulations.

Students who have already earned their MSN can pursue an online post-master’s certificate in nursing education and help expand the use of current tech-driven health trends.

The university offers several tracks for a post-master’s certificate in nursing:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
  • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Nurse Education and Faculty Role
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Learn how we can help prepare you to make a positive impact in a critical field.

Recommended Readings

Helping Patients Get the Medications They Need

How Nurse Leaders Can Address Discrimination in Nursing

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage

Becker’s Hospital Review, “Patients, Healthcare Providers Have Privacy Concerns About Telemedicine, Report Finds”

Bloomberg, “Nationwide Survey Forecasts Big Tech Investment Ahead for Nursing Education”

National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, “NONPF Supports Telehealth in Nurse Practitioner Education 2018”

Nature Medicine, “Regulatory, Safety, and Privacy Concerns of Home Monitoring Technologies During COVID-19”

NPR, “As Telemedicine Replaces the Physical Exam, What Are Doctors Missing?”

Wolters Kluwer, “Evolving Nursing Trends: Technology in 2021 and the Effects on Nursing Students”

Wolters Kluwer, “Nationwide Survey Forecasts Big Tech Investment Ahead for Nursing Education”