The nursing shortage — why there is a continued need for nurses

Since the days of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, the nursing field has experienced a great boom. Presently, nursing represents the most significant healthcare profession in the United States, with more than four million registered nurses nationwide.

Widely regarded as the ‘backbone of the healthcare system’, nurses effectively bridge the gap between patients and other medical personnel. They are the ones who tend to the sick or injured, care for them, and help them pull through their illness. In truth, nurses are critical in ensuring everything regarding healthcare runs without a hitch.

Nursing, as a profession, is very versatile, with nurses working in many different settings. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, law firms, insurance companies and correctional facilities are some of the many career opportunities available to nurses. This is perhaps why the field is regarded as one of the most sought-after professions in the US.

Reasons to choose a career in nursing

The sheer increase in the number of current and aspiring nurses globally is unsurprising, as there are many benefits to pursuing a career as a nurse. Seasoned professionals have also highlighted the following reasons as critical factors that make nursing the most prevalent healthcare field:

  • Avenue to nurture people to health

Most individuals choose nursing as a career path because they love making life better for others. They have strong interpersonal skills to work successfully with their patients and colleagues in other medical fields. They are compassionate and have a desire to ease another’s pain.

  • Job stability

Due to technological advancement, many individuals are being forced out of their jobs. However, this is not true for nursing professionals. No number of robotic hands can replace the soothing comfort that nurses provide their patients.

Nursing is not only a stable career choice to consider, but also has high growth potential, making it ideal for many. In the real sense, technological advancements create more job opportunities for nurses. For example, the field of nursing informatics aims to integrate health information by merging nursing knowledge with technology expertise.

  • Flexible work hours

Unlike other medical professions that require people to be on call at any time of the week, the nursing profession offers many work-schedule options. Nurses can decide the length of their shifts and whether they work during the day or night. Thanks to this flexible working, nurses can spend time with the people and things that matter. Some even have side jobs because of their working patterns.

However, nurses’ flexibility depends on the healthcare facility or industry they find themselves in. School nurses, for example, are likely work Monday to Friday on an eight-hour shift.

  • Career advancement

Nurses are exposed to many career advancement opportunities regardless of the industry they operate in. The nursing field has a higher growth potential compared to most healthcare fields. Thus, many become managers or supervisors, and others enter academia as researchers or professors.

  • Attractive salaries

Aside from self-fulfillment and the opportunity to help patients, money remains another significant reason for choosing a career as a nurse. In May 2021, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600, as recorded by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

As nurses advance in their careers, their paychecks also increase. Thus, some people choose to be nurses because they love a steady income supporting them and their household. Aside from the pay, nurses also have access to financial aid, which they can use to pay off the student loans they have amassed over the years.

  • Health insurance

Being a nurse comes with many perks, one of which is the inclusion of an insurance plan by their employers. These health insurances cover medical, surgical, prescription drugs, and sometimes dental expenses. With this, nurses are protected from high unexpected medical costs. They also get preventive care, such as regular checkups, vaccinations, and screenings.

The continued need and more job opportunities for nurses 

Nurses are the ones who have firsthand communication with patients, and without them, the healthcare system will crumble. Today, the demand for nurses is ever increasing and is not stopping anytime soon. So, what exactly is the reason for this high demand?

Different factors have been attributed to the rising demand for nurses globally. On the one hand, nursing is a critical sector, and there will be a continued need for nurses. However, a more detailed view into the sheer number of job opportunities in the nursing field highlights the following factors as significant causes:

  • Highly populated nursing homes

A large population of ageing people with different end-of-life conditions that require medical attention most of the day. These conditions include Alzheimer’s and dementia. Because many families are busy, nursing homes must cater to the needs of these aged populations, and nurses are the best healthcare professionals that can take care of these aged patients.

  • Creeping shortage of nurses

There is a shortage of nurses in the US, potentially meaning more job opportunities await new nurses. This shortage is partly due to the significant percentage of the aging workforce. BLS projects that almost 200,000 additional nurses will be needed within a decade, starting from 2020.

Currently, there are over three million registered nurses in America, with one-third hitting their golden century already. That means these nurses will have to retire in a decade or two and leaving behind a huge gap. Besides that, there is a shortage of educators to train nurses.

Aging faculties and budget constraints are some of the reasons for this shortage. There is also a post-pandemic effect of COVID-19 on nursing staff, as many nurses decided to retire earlier than planned, while others changed career paths.

  • Integral unit of the healthcare sector

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. As mentioned earlier, they hold the soul of the healthcare system and ensure that everything is kept in order. The functions of nursing cannot be overemphasized.

They take note of every patient’s medical history and record necessary bodily vitals, that will be instrumental in a diagnosis. They also draw specimens from patients to be tested. Patients feel safe with them and believe they are receiving the best possible care.

  • Advocacy

Nurses are the greatest advocates for patients. They understand their patients enough to know what is best for them and will fight to ensure that they get the most appropriate treatment. Nurses ensure patients use their medications when they ought to, and if surgery is required, they ensure everything is prepared

Without the keen eye of a nurse, things could go awry, and a patient could die. As doctors have less interaction with patients, they need the support of nurses. For example, nurses can update the doctors on the patient’s recovery, so the medical team know when a patient can be discharged.

Kickstarting your nursing career

Nursing is a highly demanding and rewarding career. Not only do nurses help people when they are at their lowest, but nurses are also essential members of the healthcare team. Starting your nursing career can be challenging, but with the right preparation, you can be successful. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Gain some knowledge in the nursing field

Nursing is a profession that is in high demand these days. With an aging population and the increasing number of people who need medical care, nurses are needed more than ever before. If you are thinking about becoming a nurse, now is a great time to do it. There are different degrees, diplomas or certification courses for nurses, depending on the time and money available. Here are the courses you could enroll in:

  • Practical Nursing Diploma

Getting this diploma is the first step to being a licensed practical nurse (LPN). To be a fully LPN, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) and fulfill all your state requirements for licensing. The function of an LPN includes tending to patients’ basic medical needs, such as checking vital signs, taking care of their hygiene, and taking note of their medical history. LPNs work closely with registered nurses and other healthcare practitioners in hospitals, nursing homes, or other places where healthcare is needed.

Licensed practical/vocational nurses could earn either a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) or pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) if they are interested in becoming registered nurses. The journey to being an LPN takes as few as 12 months, unlike the two to three years required to earn a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is an expected rise of 6% in the employment of licensed practical nurses from 2021–2031. The median wage for LPNs as of 2021 was $48,070 per annum.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)

Contrary to popular belief, getting a BSN is not the only way to be a registered nurse. You could become a registered nurse by earning an ASN in just two years. There is a great demand for registered nurses in the healthcare sector, whichis forecast to see a continued rise in the number of patients.

The good news about being a registered nurse is that you can specialize in any area of nursing you want, including oncology, public health, pediatrics, and neonatal or surgical care. Individuals with no prior experience in nursing or those who are LPNs can enroll for ASN right away. You stand to benefit from the median annual wage of $77,600.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The salary of registered nurses with a BSN is higher than that of a registered nurse with an ASN. In addition, being a registered nurse with a BSN would open up more educational and job opportunities for you.

You can find a three-year BSN program available, even if you have no prior healthcare experience. After becoming a certified BSN holder, you can explore the next level by getting a master’s degree in nursing.

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Specific organizations require nurses to have a master’s in nursing before being considered for a specialty or management role. Getting a master’s in nursing allows you to advance tremendously in your nursing career and explore the horizon of your practice. Here are some areas of specialties to consider while getting a master’s degree in nursing:

Nurse educator (NE): Being a nurse educator is a wonderful specialty, as you would theoretically and practically train future generations of nurses. As a nurse educator, you can conduct research, attend life-changing educational gatherings, and publish groundbreaking academic pieces regarding the healthcare system. Nurse educators have flexible work schedules as well. As of May 2022, the mean salary for nurse educators was over $80,000.

Nurse informatics (NI): You can specialize in this area if you have a knack for technology. You will gather and utilize data to ensure correct healthcare methods are employed. With informatics, you can work to improve the health of patients. Informatics nurses earn base salaries of more than $100,000 yearly.

Nurse practitioner (NP): Nurse practitioners earn an average salary of over $100,000 per year. As a nurse practitioner, you have an advanced level of training compared to registered nurses, and you can handle health promotion, prevention, and management of illnesses of all kinds. BLS projects a 40% increase in demand for nurses in this specialty by 2031.

  • Post-master’s nursing certification

With a post-master’s certificate, nurses can broaden their knowledge and, subsequently, excel more in their careers. A post-master’s nursing educator certificate allows nurses with an MSN to be fully knowledgeable about educator roles.

One such degree is the post-master’s family nurse practitioner (FNP) certificate for nurses to become board-certified family nurse practitioners. Many universities, including Rockhurst University, offer avenues to pursue a second degree, such as the online post master’s fnp programs, which entail 100% online coursework. This university has Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation, and the FNP certificate program covers four semesters.

  • Doctorate in nursing

This degree is the highest level of nursing education nurses can attain. Certain positions require this degree — thus, it is pertinent to bag a PhD in nursing if you are interested in one of these roles. You could eventually fill up leadership roles such as the director of nursing.

Nurture your skills

Now, you have earned a degree or two, but the learning does not have to end there. Nursing professionals can explore different avenues to hone their skills. This offers a priceless experience and prepares you for situations not readily covered in textbooks.

You can go on outreaches with other medical professionals to different communities, tackling any health issue affecting them. You can also attend intellectual gatherings that would broaden your knowledge. Remember to always look out for opportunities where you can harness your skills and learn more at the same time.

Have an experienced nurse who keeps you in check

Situations often seem harsh when you have never experienced them. The truth is, one way or another, someone might have walked the same path you are treading. Create opportunities to enhance your nursing career,by looking for a mentor who is conversant with your career path.

It is best if your mentor is in the same field as you, as this will allow them to point out necessary steps to take and things to avoid. Additionally, use your time learning to meet as many people as possible and add to your connections. You can achieve this by attending seminars, conferences, or events where the main influencers in the nursing field will be present.

Choose what works best for you

There are many different specialties in nursing, so find the one that is the best fit for you. Never choose a specialty because of someone else, dive into the area you love. Being a nurse is quite demanding and can drain you if you do not take time to rest. As you care for others, remember to treat yourself as your number-one patient.

Take breaks and separate yourself from stressful situations threatening your mental or physical health. Spend time with family and friends and relax during your days off. You can also let your organization know the work schedule that you prefer.

Final thoughts

The nursing field is a fertile ground where new job opportunities keep emerging, and it is one of the most lucrative and attractive career options to consider. It is a noble and challenging profession that offers many rewards.

Nursing is an excellent choice for people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. Nurses are needed in every corner of the world, and the demand for nurses is expected to grow in the years ahead. If you are looking for a career that offers opportunities for growth and advancement, nursing may be just what you are looking for.

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