The role of nurses continues to evolve both within traditional settings and beyond those walls.

New opportunities for nurses amid the changing landscape of health care

As the face of health care changes, so do the roles and opportunities for today’s nurse leaders. Traditional acute-care positions are still important, but the variety of settings within the health-care system is changing. With that evolution, new roles emerge and provide fertile ground for nurses to apply their skills in different ways. Leaders at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis recognize both this fundamental shift in settings and the change in perspective needed to prepare graduate students to both assume and further develop these professions. Faculty meet tomorrow’s need today through novel course components, redesigned learning environments and refined student-faculty dynamics.

"Our programs illustrate transformation in education and practice because we realize health happens everywhere,” said Heather M. Young, associate vice chancellor for nursing at UC Davis and founding dean of the nursing school. “Acute care is changing to include connection to the community to assure that people leave the hospital equipped with tools for a successful recovery once they’re at home.”

Five years ago, more than 80 percent of new nurses moved into hospital positions after graduation. That number has decreased to less than 60 percent with a heightened emphasis on primary care, transitional care and community-focused-care initiatives aimed at teaching people with chronic diseases how to manage their conditions. Nurses need to provide care in nontraditional settings. Yet, few nursing schools prepare graduates for work outside of the acute-care setting.

“As the center of the health-care team, nurses are poised to successfully meet the complex challenges of the ever-evolving health-care system,” explained Debra Bakerjian, senior director for the School of Nursing’s nurse practitioner and physician assistant clinical programs. “Whether advanced-degree nurse practitioners serve in rural areas or nurse informatics specialists develop solutions with mobile technology, we must prepare nurses to work in interprofessional health-care teams and manage care in a variety of settings.”

The Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Programs include five programs at the School of Nursing. Led by an interprofessional team of more than 50 faculty from across the UC Davis campus, the program prepares nurses, physician assistants and researchers to serve in roles of leadership, quality and safety, care coordination, education technology and research.

“We need to provide clinical experiences where nurses aren’t normally practicing. We need to move nurses into the places where health happens for people and increasingly that is outside of a hospital", said Theresa Harvath, director for clinical education and leader of the new Master’s Entry in Nursing degree program to prepare new nurses.

Care coordinator

Ensuring that a person receives the right treatment at the right time and that all providers and family members are on the same page is critical in every health-care environment. From an individual receiving treatment to entire communities who need health guidance, nurses possess the knowledge and skills to bring about large-scale improvements in health across the continuum of care, regardless of setting. With nurses’ experience working in teams and building trust with the person at the center of care, researchers anticipate exponential growth in this role.

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here


Informatics specialist

Emerging and new technologies, such as smart phones, social media and data management systems, could provide solutions to complex health-care issues. More nurse leaders are needed to take action beyond the input and review of data. They must use that information as a tool to improve patient outcomes such as fall rates, infections and diabetic health. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society considers informatics nurses an "integral part of health-care delivery and a differentiating factor in the selection, implementation, and evaluation of health IT that supports safe, high quality, patient-centric care."

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here.

Faculty team leader

Experts recognize the need for synergy between classroom content and clinical practice, as well as the importance of interdisciplinary education. Just as nursing is moving toward community-based practice, educational environments created by nursing education faculty must be tailored to provide the necessary skills and knowledge so new nurses can step into their roles confidently and prepared to work within teams across disciplines.

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here.


 Health coach

As the need for more primary-care providers increases, clinicians and educators look to medical assistants and nursing staff to play a larger role in engaging with those coming in for care. By serving as health coaches, nurses instruct and educate front-line caregivers to serve in leadership positions and improve quality of care. Caregivers learn how to motivate people with chronic disease allowing them to be the driver of their health change. In this capacity, nurses serve as educators outside of a traditional classroom, but in an environment where their expertise is greatly needed. Ultimately, clinicians look to these new health coaches as experts building trust and eliciting information to improve care.

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here.

Nurse and family cooperative facilitator

As health-care delivery moves out of the clinical setting and into the community, nurses further connect with people where they live and work. This enables them to address immediate health concerns, as well as overall social issues such as poverty, substance abuse and violence. The opportunity to engage with families in their everyday environment allows health-care leaders to provide assistance, intervention and tools to manage their health-care issues and produce more successful outcomes.

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here.


Primary-care provider

Today, only 30 percent of all physicians practice primary care, compared to about 70 percent 50 years ago. This percentage is shrinking at a steady rate. Estimates in the Annals of Family Medicine indicate that America, which today has about 210,000 primary-care providers in active practice, will need an additional 52,000 by 2025. With growing demand, nursing schools must adjust their teaching methods and curriculum to address the shift. As primary-care providers, nurses work within clinics and community environments handling intake screening, preventive medicine, patient education and health coaching to those who battle chronic diseases and complex illnesses.

For more on how the School of Nursing is involved in this new role, click here and here.


The role of nurses continues to evolve both within traditional settings and beyond those walls. Possibilities abound and the demand for educated, highly skilled and passionate health-care professionals grows at a rapid rate. The leadership and faculty of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing promote a learning environment and a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduate students to embrace opportunities and successfully tackle the challenges of a health-care system in constant flux.