Despite widely reported nursing job freezes in many parts of the country, nursing is still pegged as a top career for 2011 and beyond, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2011 report says the U.S. economy will add 582,000 new registered nursing jobs by 2018.
But don’t look to hospitals, once the largest and best-paying employers. Instead, private physician offices, home health care and nursing care facilities, and employment services will provide the biggest growth area for jobs. Healthcare innovation and cost pressures to decrease hospital patient stays are driving more care to private offices and outpatient settings, says the report. Likewise, an aging population will keep driving demand for nurses in long-term and home-based settings.
Nurses with a bachelor of science degree (BSN) will have the best prospects, suggest reports. They should also think about specializing with an eye toward growth areas, such as informatics, geriatrics, orthopedics, genetics, and psychiatric settings.
Top salaries for nurses today include certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, managers, informatics nurses, clinical nurse specialists, and nurses specializing in research, pediatric endocrinology, orthopedics, neonatal care, and gerontology.
One of the big conundrums for the profession is salary levels, particularly for nurse educators, who can make much more in private practice. The American Association of College of Nursing contends that a teaching shortage will make it hard for American nursing schools to meet demand. According to a 2009-2010 enrollment report, nursing schools turned away 54,991 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2009 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints, reports the American Association of College of Nursing.
However, there is increasingly conflicting data that makes you want to take widely reported “nursing shortages” with a grain of salt. The LPN job market was hard hit last year. And then there’s this fascinating five-post series asking whether colleges are supplying too many nursing grads by Paul Tosto, a writer at the MinnEcon blog. In it, Tosto noted that in 2009 more than 190,000 people completed nursing school for just more than 105,000 annual openings.
“The situation in most areas probably isn’t as out of whack as the numbers suggest,” says EMSI’s Josh Wright.
“There are still lots of job postings for RNs and other more specialized nurses. But anecdotally, we’re hearing more and more how nurses in certain areas can’t find jobs. It’s a complicated issue, but clearly there is a supply / demand imbalance — as EMSI’s data suggest.”
Part of the problem is that no one collects all the data in one place in a form that’s most useful. So we’re still groping to understand the data and answer the question about the supply of nurses in the education pipeline.