The demand for qualified nurses has never been higher. If you want a health care career with direct patient interaction, a fast-paced and ever-changing workday, and the opportunity to work in almost any setting, then nursing could be for you.
Nursing, the front line of the health care system, is a choice worth exploring. This area of medicine is experiencing shortages, despite the fact that the Department of Labor projects a large number of openings in upcoming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections lists registered nursing as one of the top professions to experience job growth through 2026—a 15% increase from 2016—with an additional 203,700 new RNs needed each year to fill new positions and replace retiring nurses.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a surge of interest in the field. People are now seeing how important nurses truly are, and those who are recently unemployed may view nursing as a rewarding and stable new profession to pursue, according to the Daily Mail. But there is still a concern that access to quality health care may be compromised since nursing schools aren’t graduating enough nurses educated at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. Here are just a few reasons more prospective students should consider a major in Nursing.
Many different professional options
The opportunity to help people and make a difference in their lives, the diversity of specialties available within the overall field of health care, and the likelihood of job security all make nursing a good field in which to work.
“Young people are now discovering all that nursing has to offer and the variety of things they can do in the profession,” says Dr. Verna R. Kieffer, former Chair of the Department of Nursing at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. “There are endless opportunities available in today’s health care system.”
And while nursing used to be a field that primarily attracted women, more and more men are now choosing it as a career. The broad range of choices available include work in oncology, renal medicine, psychiatry, emergency services, pediatric nursing, operating room care, hospice and palliative care, intensive care, community health nursing, research, teaching, and more. In addition, all branches of the military are interested in signing on nurses, and individuals who make this career decision can be stationed throughout the world.
Solid earnings and benefits
While entry-level salaries for nurses vary depending on location, the current national average is $61,728 per year, with additional compensation for evening, night, and weekend shifts. Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow—a coalition of 42 nursing and health care organizations—lists signing bonuses, health insurance, vacation days, holiday pay, college tuition reimbursement, childcare, flexible scheduling, and pension plans as benefits people entering the field can expect to enjoy.
Individuals who are interested in pursuing a nursing career should be aware, though, that educational requirements are becoming stricter. In 2010, the Committee on the Future of Nursing called for at least 80% of nurses to hold a baccalaureate degree or higher by 2020; however, only 56% of nurses currently meet these qualifications, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Five-year programs in Nursing are now offered by many colleges. Combined bachelor’s/master’s programs allow students to finish faster and move into the workforce more quickly. Some colleges also offer financial features that include the master’s degree portion of the degree billed at the undergraduate level or a special tuition rate for registered nurses seeking their bachelor’s degree in Nursing. Still other schools have boosted scholarship awards to qualified students.
Advanced practice nurses—those with a master’s degree or higher—are also in very high demand and offer nurses the opportunity to become more specialized. Some options include nurse practitioners, who can prescribe medications and provide primary care; nurse-midwives, who provide OB/GYN care and attend to births; nurse anesthesiologists, who administer over 50% of the anesthetics given to patients each year; and Doctors of Nursing Practice, who work both in the field as well as administrators and in research.
Related: Nursing Degree Breakdown
The bottom line
By whatever method students come to the field of nursing, the opportunities are certainly there. In today’s high-tech, often impersonal world, nursing offers a career that touches lives—and that can provide a great deal of personal satisfaction.
Nursing graduate Rebecca Witcop works in a busy county hospital. She sums up her feelings this way: “I love my job, and I feel what I do every day makes a real difference in people’s lives.”