Nursing is undoubtedly one of the most versatile and in-demand professions in the US today. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare sector, providing essential patient care across diverse health environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, private practices, outpatient clinics and patient residences.
With the employment of registered nurses projected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, entering the nursing field today can be a smart move for those seeking a stable career. In addition to a positive job outlook, a nursing career offers several other benefits, including high compensation, unmatched career advancement opportunities and several specialization possibilities. Let’s take a look at why you might consider becoming a nurse and the new trends that are driving the nursing career.
Good job outlook
With an expected growth rate of 6% in the next decade, the nursing field’s job growth is faster than the estimated 5% for all other occupations in the same period. The aging population is one of the critical factors enhancing the growth of the nursing field and expanding the demand for nurses across various health settings.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 203,200 openings for registered nurses over the decade, many of which will result from the need to replace retiring workers who are exiting the labor force. Nurses are also in higher demand due to the changes brought by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). ACA has increased the number of people accessing health insurance, which means more patients are visiting the doctor or the emergency room for care. The more patients a health facility receives, the higher the number of physicians and nurses it will need.
Salary is undeniably a critical factor when choosing a career. While most nurses enter the profession because of an interest in helping others, many of them enjoy high salaries with unmatched perks. As of 2021, the average medical yearly salary was $77,600, with some of the highest-paying specialties averaging $195,000. With that in mind, the amount you get paid as a nurse is determined by factors such as:
- Where you work
- What degree do you hold (nurses with a master’s in nursing tend to earn more than their BSN counterparts)
- The industry in which you work
- The facility
- Job status (full-time or part-time)
As a nurse, you get several opportunities to maximize your pay through overtime shifts. Indeed, a leading employment platform estimates that registered nurses in the US earn more than $12,000 in overtime each year. Access to additional income sources can be beneficial, especially during the current challenging economic times. Overtime pay provides an easy way to add to your salary and have more money for living expenses, vacations or savings.
The high demand for nurses worldwide guarantees better job security than other professions. As baby boomers age, a significant portion of the nursing profession will reach retirement age. At the same time, few nurses are graduating from nursing schools to fill the new openings. This means that those who are ready and willing to work in nursing enjoy a higher level of job security.
As mentioned earlier, higher pay and attractive perks are not the only factors motivating people to choose a nursing career. If you enjoy caring for others, nursing is one of the most personally and professionally fulfilling careers you can ever take on. Nurses help save lives on an everyday basis, and becoming a nurse gives you opportunities to positively impact others through your knowledge and skills. There is no better motivation than getting out of bed each morning knowing that you could save several lives before the day ends.
If you prefer a job that offers a flexible work schedule, consider a nursing career. Nurses don’t have to make a full-time commitment; they can choose to work part-time or full-time. In nursing, full-time generally means working 40 hours a week. Any work schedule requiring a nurse to work less than full-time hours qualifies as part-time work.
Continued education opportunities
The healthcare industry is one of the most dynamic fields, and it keeps shifting. Each day, alternative approaches, innovative treatments and new research keep emerging to transform how nurses care for their patients. As a nurse, you must stay on top of the latest trends in the field and continue learning new things as they emerge. To do this, consider leveraging the many continued learning opportunities available from accredited institutions.
There are myriad opportunities for career advancement in nursing, including as a ward manager, director of nursing or senior nursing roles. Generally, these positions require vast experience, training, and recommendations from managers and senior healthcare professionals.
As a nurse, you should strive to achieve goals that advance your career. With an online direct entry MSN program, you can become an advanced nurse practitioner or consultant, earning increased pay and benefits. You can fast-track your career transition to nursing with Elmhurst University’s online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) program, an accelerated and immersive MSN program designed for non-nurses to become registered nurses and clinical nurse leaders in just 20 months.
Nursing is a respected field
In 1999, Gallup initiated a decades-long survey to establish the most honest and ethical profession. For ten years straight, Americans ranked nursing in the top position as the most respected career. As a nurse, society views you as a valuable asset, and your opinion will always be valued and highly esteemed.
Which nursing positions are in demand?
Generally, most nursing positions today are in high demand. However, some specific areas are seeing more growth than others. These include:
- Critical care nurses: As their names suggest, critical care nurses provide care to patients who have life-threatening conditions. Since critical patients require around-the-clock care, this intense career is always in high demand. Some specialties under this category, such as oncology or pediatrics, are in even higher demand.
- Nurse midwives: Nurse midwives offer prenatal care and gynecological care. In some states, these professionals also offer care during birth. As more and more American mothers embrace the natural delivery routine, this career has been growing exponentially.
- Operating room nurse: OR nurses help physicians perform various surgical procedures. This is a high-demand field due to the increasing number of people who choose to have surgery both for medical and aesthetic purposes, such as plastic surgery.
- Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner has at least a Master of Science in Nursing and offers more services than an RN. They can treat patients, prescribe medications and diagnose a range of illnesses. Generally, NPs work under a doctor’s oversight but can address non-complicated cases and offer basic patient care.
Top trends in nursing to watch
Nursing is a constantly changing and advancing field. With the emergence of new healthcare technologies, care methods, world events and hospital practices, nurses must keep an eye on the industry’s top trends. Here are the top nursing trends for 2023 and beyond.
Growth of telehealth
The role of telehealth has grown steadily since the time of the pandemic. Telehealth has benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. Patients who may otherwise struggle to get to a care facility can still attend their healthcare appointments and healthcare providers lose less time if an appointment is missed.
Experts attribute the growth of telehealth to the increased willingness of patients and providers to use modern technology and regulatory changes that have expanded access and insurance coverage. Today, more and more nurses are conveniently offering virtual care through telephone calls and video sessions. Telehealth can make workflows more efficient while reducing the number of trips patients must take to see their providers.
Advancements in online nursing education programs
Online nursing programs have enjoyed immense popularity in recent years. These programs offer a lot of flexibility to students, especially working nurses who might otherwise not be able to find time to attend physical classes. While coursework is online, these courses also offer the practical experience needed for the program, either through clinical placements or, in recent years, simulations.
Simulated scenarios allow student nurses to develop their critical thinking and practical skills on everyday and rare scenarios. There are also different types of simulation depending on the course/institution. PC screen simulations, virtual patients, and even computerized mannequins can all be used to allow students to practice for scenarios they may face in their careers. These also allow for the educators to give faster and more detailed feedback to their students, which isn’t always possible in a real-life setting.
Online nursing programs have also opened up learning opportunities for people living in rural areas. In the coming years, online programs will grow further in popularity and become an effective tool for furthering education, creating new opportunities and advancing careers.
Expanding roles of nurse practitioners
The roles of nurse practitioners have been growing steadily in recent times. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reveals the total number of licensed nurse practitioners stood at 290,000 in December 2019. Two years later, the number had grown substantially to reach over 355,000.
A 2020 nursing forum journal noted that nurse practitioners care for diverse patient populations and are more likely than physicians to treat patients in rural and medically underserved areas. Recent studies have also established that nurse practitioners tend to provide care that is equal to or higher in quality than physicians.
Growth in nonclinical nursing careers
Nurses moving into nonclinical roles is one of the most notable trends the profession is witnessing right now. Many graduates who would naturally take up roles in clinical practice are exploring alternative career paths thanks to the versatility of modern nursing degree programs and the availability of new positions.
For example, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduates have been taking up nonclinical roles as hospital administrators, health policymakers, college educators and bioinformatics analysts in recent years. The risks posed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic have also motivated many nurses with a wealth of experience, expertise and insights to seek nonclinical leadership roles in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Other emerging nonclinical roles that nurses can pursue include positions in:
- Healthcare corporations: Nurses can pursue corporate positions in product development, marketing, or sales.
- Nonprofit organizations: Nurses can also serve in executive leadership positions or as board members in NGOs.
- Consulting: Nurses can leverage their skills and training to consult in emerging areas such as employee wellness and community mental health programs.
If you are searching for an excellent career with ongoing demand, nursing is well worth considering. Nurses play a fundamental role in delivering high-quality care that improves patient outcomes. As a vital profession, nursing can provide you with a lucrative career with numerous benefits, including higher pay, better job security and career advancement opportunities.