Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nursing’s Future: Where Are You in the Big Picture?

Just for the heck of it, I recently decided to Google the word “nurses” and see what would pop up.

One of the first links sent me to the Occupational Outlook Handbook compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and surprisingly, it made for interesting reading. I was quickly drawn to “What Do Registered Nurses Do?” and I was pleased with what I read. Right at the top was this: “Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.”

I really liked the emphasis on the role of nurses as educators, advisors and coordinators. This is a decided shift from times-gone-by when nurses mainly carried out others’ directions and orders, and had virtually no input and little responsibility for initiating care or care plans. So we’ve come a long way.

How do nurses fair in the pay department?

According to the BLS, the median annual wage in May 2010 was $64,690. (That means half of all nurses earned more; half earned less.) The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,190, and the top 10 percent earned more than $95,130. This pay rate compares to that of a firefighter whose median annual wage is $45,250 and whose job requires no degree; a dental hygienist at $68,250 whose job requires an associate’s degree; and a physician’s assistant at $86,410 whose position requires a master’s degree.

Where do nurses work?

More than half – 54 percent – work in general medical and surgical hospitals. Eight percent work in physicians’ offices; 5 percent in nursing care facilities; and 5 percent in home health care. The remainder work in education, administration, support services and for the government.

There is always a lot of talk among nurses about job prospects, and it seems that current opportunities are uneven, depending upon where nurses are seeking work and how much experience they have. The official word from the bureau is that the number of nursing jobs will grow 26 percent between now and 2020, “faster than the average for all occupations.” The reasons why revolve mostly around the fact that more people are living longer and will need ongoing care for chronic conditions; and the need for rehabilitation, home health care, and Alzheimer’s and memory care services.

Other reasons more nurses will be needed include the growth of technology, which in turn, means that more health problems will be treated, an increased emphasis on preventive care;, and the increasing number of outpatient procedures. And most people expect the Affordable Care Act, currently under review by the Supreme Court, to bring more and more patients into the realm of the insured, who will then seek additional care; a lot may depend on how much of the legislation remains intact.

When all of these factors converge, which nurses will be in greatest demand?

In general, nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree, and advanced practice nurses – clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners – will find the most opportunities, especially in rural settings and inner cities. And experts predict that because facilities and institutions will eventually have to compete for nurses, they may offer signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, subsidized training and other attractive benefits.

None of this will happen overnight, but on the other hand, some of this is happening now.

Where are you in the big picture of the future of nursing?

Do you think you have enough education or do you plan to get more?

Do you feel your career goals are in line with what the experts predict?

Tell us about it.

2 comments:

Linda Bright said...

I like to think I'm heading more toward advocacy in nursing - helping others find a way to follow a nursing dream, and offering my own experience to help others. Also, I'm fascinated with the changes that are developing in nursing, particularly with the APRNs out there.

I don't think there is ever enough education. People should never stop learning, and that is probably even more true for nurses. We live in a time where technology is bringing us more technology (haha) and so many advances in medicine and patient care, it's astounding. Nursing today is certainly not what it was 30 years ago... or even 5 years ago.

My career goals are somewhat different than what is predicted, but I would like to think I will still play a role in the advancement of rural nursing, advanced practice nursing, etc.

Great article! Thanks!

Lee Van Michaels said...

I would like to add that at the same time things are looking more difficult for nurses, they are still sought after like never before. As of the past few months the travel RN jobs plus other sectors have seen an increase in the pay rates and package offers.