While plenty of college grads struggle to find paying work, nursing students have nothing to fear. According to the latest findings by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field should explode with opportunity.
For registered nurses (RNs) alone, there should be nearly half a million open positions by 2024 ‘ growth only eclipsed by one other profession: personal care aides. Even better, this figure doesn’t account for various specialties just developing to address changing health care needs.
This extraordinary growth in job opportunities for nurses hasn’t developed unexpectedly. In fact, history is riddled with tales of nursing shortages, but experts believe that recent events have compounded with developing trends to create a scarcity that will have serious ramifications in coming years. Though doctors receive a majority of the credit for medical treatment, nurses are vital to the proper functioning of health care facilities.
Nurses perform most medical duties, from collecting patient information to administering medications, so doctors can focus on more delicate processes, like diagnostics and the development of treatment plans. Hospitals and care centers facing nurse shortages are less efficient, which slows treatment and negatively impacts patient outcomes.
The causes of the shortage are manifold. First, nursing programs have seen a drop in enrollment in recent years. Rising tuition costs in addition to a flagging economy have dissuaded many potential nurses from seeking education. Worse, the existing nursing population is aging: In 1998, the average age of working nurses was about 41, and today nurses’ average age is 47.
Soon, more than 40 percent of nurses will be 50 and older, and when these aging nurses retire, the lack of young nurses will leave an even more dramatic lack of nursing staff in the nation’s health care facilities.
Additionally, the baby boomers are reaching old age in droves. Seniors require much more medical attention than young and middle-aged adults, and the boomers’ added stress on the health care industry only exacerbates the nursing shortage issue.
How to Capitalize on the Growth?
Although the hours can be long and grueling, nursing remains one of the best jobs for reliable work and good pay. Because nurses are needed everywhere, nursing grads have their pick of employers. In fact, in some extremely needy regions, nurses can receive bonuses of as much as $20,000 just for signing up to work. Though nursing salaries vary greatly depending on location and position, the average RN earns about $67,000 every year, which is about $16,000 more than the average job salary.
Plus, nursing education is not as rigorous as many potential students might expect. The lowest level of nurses, called Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), can earn certification after just one year of school. However, LPNs typically have only minor responsibilities and salaries to match.
To become an RN, students must complete at least two years of nursing school to earn an Associate Nursing Degree (AND). However, those who finish a university nursing program to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are more qualified to take on advanced responsibilities in health care centers.
Yet, the most coveted positions are held by those who have obtained a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which is an additional two-year master program earned on top of previous degrees. Nurses with MSNs tend to be nurse-leaders, who monitor nursing practices and enact processes that improve efficiency and patient outcomes.
Thanks to various bridge programs, it is possible to start as an LPN and move up to an MSN ‘ even while working ‘ with the help of online MSN programs. If enough young adults learn the benefits of nursing as a career and enroll in nursing education, America may be able to avoid a catastrophic nursing shortage in coming years.
Best Specialties in Nursing
Perhaps another reason for the nursing shortage is the increasing need for specialized nurses. Though nursing staffs around the country are largely composed of generalists, many hospitals and care facilities seek out successful nurses with certifications in specialized medicine.
The following specialties can provide even more benefits, such as higher salary, better schedules, and more prestige:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
- Average salary: $133,000
- Education: master’s degree in nursing anesthesiology and national certification
- Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
- Average salary: $95,000
- Education: certification in gerontology
- Informatics Nurse
- Average salary: $83,000
- Education: master’s degree in computer science
- Nursing Administrator
- Average salary: $79,000
- Education: master’s degree in health care administration
This is a sponsored post written by Cher Zevala. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own. Learn more about contributing for Consumer Health Digest.