The demand for nurses is increasing, with one million additional nurses needed by 2022. This is partly due to the large number of aging baby boomers needing medical care. At the same time, many nurses are retiring. Both of these factors have contributed to the growing number of nursing positions available. Other factors such as the status of the Affordable Care Act and immigration laws could also have an impact on job openings.
Some hospitals are now offering signing bonuses to nurses who commit to multi-year contracts. Hospitals are looking for Registered Nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This is now the standard, with 66% of RNs holding a BSN. The nursing career offers many benefits. Most nurses now work three 12-hour shifts per week, allowing for more days off. Also, a career in nursing provides a great salary and opportunities for growth and advancement.
Some rural areas are encountering an even more serious problem than the shortage of nurses: a lack of hospitals. “Hospital deserts” is a phrase coined to describe rural areas that are more than thirty miles from an ER. Some areas are over 200 miles from a hospital, and patients must be flown by plane in order to receive the healthcare they need.
In spite of the desperate need for nurses in some areas, last year more than 56,000 qualified students were rejected by nursing programs. This is a result of nursing schools’ struggle to find and keep nursing educators, who can make a higher salary in nursing than they can in education. In fact, the national vacancy rate for nursing faculty positions is over 7%. Also, there is a limited number of clinical sites available for nursing students to gain experience at. Because of these shortages, many colleges have decreased their class sizes for nursing students. Bridge programs could be one solution to help with this problem. Bridge programs are accelerated programs that allow people with a medical background or a degree in another field to switch over to the field of nursing.
Current trends indicate how the nursing profession is developing. Due to the lack of primary care physicians in recent years, nurses often have to step in and fill those gaps. Outpatient facilities are taking on some of the patient load, so there are also more nursing positions available there. A big change in the last few decades is the switch to electronic records (EHR Systems) and mobile technology, which has required nurses to become tech savvy. Also, the nursing profession is increasing in gender and racial diversity, but much more change is needed to reflect the general population.
Students who are interested in nursing should be aware that in some places, college nursing programs are extremely competitive. To increase their chances, high school students should maintain a high GPA and consider signing up for AP classes, especially in the sciences. Volunteering at a hospital, taking a CPR class, or joining HOSA can also give them a leg up on the competition.
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