The aging of the population combined with the current and projected nursing shortage is creating a huge demand for nurses across all practice areas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be a need for one million additional nurses by the year 2010 which means that demand will far outweigh supply if current conditions continue. And this trend is creating an exciting opportunity for anyone looking into a nursing career – especially those looking for a career change.
The nursing shortage stems from a few key factors:
The aging of the nursing workforce with retirement of many expected over the course of the next 10-15 years.
The severe drop-off of enrollment in nursing programs across the country. A key factor here is a shortage of nursing faculty which resulted in over 40,000 qualified candidates being turned away from nursing programs in 2007¹.
The expansion of nursing services outside of hospitals, to include long-term care facilities, outpatient surgery facilities, community health centers, home care services, and corporate health divisions.
The decline in overall retention rate of nurses. Many nurses are leaving the field due to the increased stress levels they are experiencing in carrying heavier patient loads than they feel adequately able to care for. In the March-April 2005 issue of Nurse Economic$ , Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues found that over 75% of nurses feel that the nursing shortage is negatively impacting the quality of their work life and patient care.
What this means in terms of career potential is that there has never been a better time to become a nurse, particularly for those graduating from a bachelor’s level program. Along with highly attractive salaries come the added benefits of long-term career stability and enhanced working conditions. With regard to salary, The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median annual earnings of registered nurses were $ 52,330 in 2004, while the middle 50 percent earned between $ 43,370 and $ 63,360, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $ 37,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $ 74,760. As many nurses also earn shift differentials and overtime pay, salaries are often higher than the reported base.
Another important development within the profession is that nurses are being given much more responsibility and autonomy than in times past which has resulted in a greatly enhanced image of the role both within and outside of the medical community. Aside from direct patient care other career paths for nurses with a bachelor’s level education include research, administration, and management. One area where there is great need is for nursing school faculty. As noted above, the shortage of qualified nursing faculty throughout the country is significantly impacting the ability of these schools to recruit and enroll students. U.S. nursing schools declined over 40,000 qualified candidates from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2007 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.
Finally, there is greater availability of loans, grants and scholarships, along with special programs to assist disadvantaged students in meeting the financial obligation of college attendance.
The nursing profession has never been more pivotal in meeting the future healthcare needs of an aging population. For those seeking to enter the profession it is a time of incredible career opportunity offering many professional as well as personal rewards. For more information on nursing careers and the availability of nursing jobs, visit our career center at MatrixMJ.com.
¹ As noted in a report issued by the American Association of Colleges Of Nursing (AACN) titled 2007-2008 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing.
Kristie McDonald is a former HR Director and now Vice President at Matrix Medical Jobs – an innovative and revolutionary job board designed to help nurses, allied health professionals and physicians improve and expand their careers. Please visit MatrixMJ.com for Nursing Career Advice and Nursing Jobs.