Nurses may be the most in-demand health care position in the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for registered nurses will grow faster than any other occupation through 2012. Registered nurses constitute the largest health care occupation, with 2.3 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We’re always looking for nurses – it’s one of those job needs that doesn’t go away,” says Joel Livingston, a Philadelphia-based health care recruiter. “It’s something we can’t catch up with.”
The continued demand for nurses is fueled by several factors.
“One of the reasons for the nursing shortage is the fact that there are a lot of nurses who have nursing degrees who today can make a living using that nursing degree without actually being a bedside nurse,” says Mark B. Cohen, spokesman for Vitas, a national hospice care provider based in Miami. “They are taking jobs like case managers for managed care companies, for example, or working as research assistants for pharmaceutical companies.”
The nursing workforce today is also an aging workforce – the national median age for nurses is 43.3. “The nursing workforce is getting older, which means fewer young people are getting into nursing,” Cohen says. “Nurses tend to leave the field before they hit retirement age, too.”
Many hospitals take several steps to attract and keep qualified nurses. Some offer on-site licensed practical nurse programs, which allow students the convenience of studying and performing their clinical practice requirements in the same place. Others offer scholarship programs through local schools, which require scholarship recipients to make a commitment to working for the hospital for a certain period of time after they graduate.
Nurses can follow one of three tracks during their career – clinical, managerial or educational. Experts say there is a notable shortage of nurses in the educational track. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recently reported that although enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate programs in nursing increased by 10.6 percent last year, 26,340 qualified applications were turned away, mainly because colleges and universities have found they have too few instructors to meet the demand.
The higher enrollment numbers show that interest in nursing is increasing. For many, nursing offers the promise of a career that will always be in demand.