Nursing Education Trend Timelines


A detailed analysis of nursing education is needed to show how its past has shaped its present. The current trends in nursing education are influencing and defining its future in different ways. Undoubtedly, nursing is among the fast growing professions in the healthcare sector. Nursing education is one of the areas that have been affected by changing trends in the healthcare sector. Looking at past trends will give an understanding of how nursing education has created enlightenment about the diversity that delineates within this field and the shared goals that bind it. The historical timeline traces the trends that have defined the nursing education in the last 50 years. The second timeline will look into the future changes that describe nursing education from today to 2040.

Historical evolution

In 1965, American Nurses’ Association (ANA) position statement changed the standards for practicing nurses by providing that those licensed to practice nursing needed training from institutions of higher education. According to Nielsen, Noone, Voss, and Mathews (2013), the responsibilities of nurse practitioners were evolving rapidly, and thus, the nurse educators needed advanced training to gain the capacity to design curriculum, decide instruction approaches, and conduct student assessment. In the late 1970s, the level of professionalism in nursing was inadequate for the enlarging scope and function of practical nurses. Diploma nursing was the most common level of nursing education offered during this time. Training was based on an apprenticeship model where students offered healthcare services in exchange of educational lectures. In the late 1990s, this model was highly criticized for its inability to match training goals with the needs of the healthcare sector. Besides, duties were allocated based on hospital needs rather than nurse qualifications (Gerard, Kazer, Babington, & Quell, 2014).

Even though diploma programs have experienced a substantial decline, they continue to manifest importance in the area of nursing research, leadership, and innovation. Due to the increased need to redesign the diploma program in the late 1960s, the advocacy for university education gained popularity. This model of university education was referred to as baccalaureate education. A university degree would eliminate apprenticeships where nursing programs offered little education because nurses were required in large numbers. Preparation in this new program offered better content in collaboration skills, leadership, community health, and other competencies that distinguished it from diploma and associate degree education (Gerard et al., 2014).

Since the late 1960s, baccalaureate programs have increased immensely. Current studies indicate an improvement in education programs for nurse has led to improvement in patient outcomes. In the past 50 years, nurses were trained on-the-job. Nowadays, the situation has changed since nurses are trained in a classroom setting and later on clinical settings before they are licensed to practice. More defined legal and ethical standards have emerged to facilitate a higher level of care.

Evolution in technology has brought new opportunities in nursing education. For instance, technology provides support for evidence-based practices and gives nurse educators an advantage in teaching and assessment. Technology has compelled nursing educators to shift to new instruction and meet the evolving demands of the nursing regulatory board. More independence and training has emerged to strengthen nursing education. Currently, nurses have more autonomy and mobility than it was the case in the past decades (Overstreet, 2015). Due to changing demands in the medicine field, there has been increased specialization in nursing than before. More strict legal and ethical measures are expected to define the future of nursing education since patient education has increased.

Furthermore, there has been an emergence of nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners category developed in the 1960s to cater for the scarcity of doctors. Currently, nurse practitioners are privileged to operate as independent healthcare providers. The structure of medicine has changed into a combination of hospitals leading to loss of community-based health care system. This trend is encouraging process improvement that is driven by profit motives, which presents a challenge to the role of nurse educators as scholars and collaborators. Nurse educators are discouraged to forge relationships with communities and regulatory bodies.

The future of nursing education

The field of nursing is always evolving, and thus, nursing education is facing swift changes due to increased expectations of the nursing regulatory board. Further advances in high-fidelity simulation (HFS) will facilitate the much-needed changes in nursing education (Yuan, Williams, & Fang, 2013). Therefore, role of the educator will evolve to accommodate the changes and make sure that individuals joining the nursing profession are equipped to handle he changes. The teaching role of a nursing educator may vanish given that by 2040 there might be robots with the ability to offer instruction (Overstreet, 2015). Holistic nursing has emerged, and thus, the need for holistic nurses will be high by 2040. Consequently, nursing education will need to incorporate holistic treatment approaches in the nursing curriculum.


The current and the predicted changes and trends in nursing education will improve the practice for the delivery of quality services. Technology will play a major role in shaping the role of a nursing educator in the future. By the year 2040, robots may be used to give learning instructions, thus reducing the need for nursing educators. Besides, the nursing practice is evolving to accommodate holistic care. Therefore, the nursing faculty should ensure more independence and intensive training based on the current and predicted changes.


Gerard, S., Kazer, M., Babington, L., & Quell, T. (2014). Past, present, and future trends of Master’s education in nursing. Journal of Professional Nursing, 30(4), 326-332.

Nielsen, A., Noone, J., Voss, H., & Mathews, L. (2013). Preparing nursing students for the future: An innovative approach to clinical education. Nurse Education in Practice, 13(4), 301-309.

Overstreet, M. (2015). How nursing has changed with technology. Nursing Clinics of North America, 50(2), 4-6.

Yuan, H., Williams, B., & Fang, J. (2013). The contribution of high-fidelity simulation to nursing students’ confidence and competence: a systematic review. International Nursing Review, 59(1), 26-34.

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