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 is for you!
Are you thinking about a career in health care?
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 the a large number of openings in upcoming years.
Enrollment in entry-level degree programs in nursing increased by 4.8% in 2007 over the previous year, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). However, this increase is not sufficient to meet the projected demand for nurses. According to one report, to meet the projected growth in demand for RN services, the United States must graduate approximately 90% more nurses from U.S. nursing programs.
The government is projecting a shortage of almost one million nurses by the year 2020. There is concern that access to quality health care may be compromised since nursing schools are not graduating enough nurses educated at the baccalaureate and graduate levels.
Many different 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, 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.
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, they generally range between $39,000 and $49,000 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. The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) calls for at least two-thirds of the workforce to hold a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing by 2010. Currently, only 43% of nurses meet these qualifications.
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.
The bottom line is that 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.
Rebecca Witcop, a recent nursing graduate, 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.”