Old Job/Bright Future: Nurse

Big Data is making inroads into healthcare, but machines have no bedside manner.

A nurse with all the answers and a bedside manner. An aircraft mechanic with a computer science degree. The Future of Work will mean some big changes to existing jobs, but in many cases humans will remain the critical component. Here is Part 3 of a four-part series.

Robot nurses aren’t in the near future, experts say. In fact, nurses will be one of the fastest-growing job roles in the United States. In 2014, the Department of Labor recorded 2.75 million registered nurses. By 2024, the department expects the number to be 3.16 million, a 15 percent increase.

The main reason nurses are in demand: Baby Boomers entering their golden years. According to the National Institutes of Health, there could be more than 70 milion people older than age 65 living in the United States, a more than 55 percent increase from 2015. In general, elderly people need more medical care.

The new nurses will be working with more than just stethoscopes and syringes, of course. Big Data is making inroads into healthcare. IBM’s AI-infused supercomputer, Watson, and other intelligent machines are making their way into hospital wards and doctor’s offices, giving medical professionals information about diseases and diagnoses in real time.

But since Watson and other machines have no bedside manner, one of the most fundamental functions of the nurse will become increasingly important: empathy. Futurists predict that nurses will become increasingly empowered to make critical medical information and, importantly, explain it to others. “Nurses are perfectly placed to be the interface between an artificial intelligence system and the patients and their families,” says Graeme Codrington, a futurist and founder of the strategy firm TomorrowToday.


Part 1: Barista

Part 2: Logistics Officer

Part 4: Aircraft Mechanic