What’s the Job Market like for Nurses?

While the United States is still recovering from years of economic difficulties, the job market for nurses remains promising. Despite advances in medicine and technology, patient care will always be a growing industry.

Recent job information indicates that now is an especially good time to enter the field of nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the nursing job market is expected to grow almost 20 percent by 2022. An estimated 526,800 new jobs will be created. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for nurses remains well below the national average at only two percent.

Why Are Nurses Going to Be in Demand?

Many factors play into the anticipated growth of the nursing job market. Health care reform, the aging population, and decreasing numbers of qualified health care workers will all be a factor in the increased need for more qualified nurses.

Health Care Reform
The recent changes in health care reform are significant and impact care providers at all levels. The Affordable Care Act, as signed into law by President Obama in 2009, greatly increased the number of individuals that could gain access to health care through the implementation of widespread health insurance. To accommodate this influx of patients as well as the aging population, the health care workforce will need to expand. The Affordable Care Act also provided for care restructuring, putting much more of the patient care.

Shortage of Doctors
There is also a current shortage of primary care and internal medicine physicians, and this shortage is only expected to worsen. New models of care are being implemented including patient-centered medical homes and nurse-managed clinics that will help address the doctor shortage. According to a report by the Journal of Health Affairs, these new models of care “could eliminate 50 percent or more of the primary care shortage” by 2025. Nurses will be in high demand to help support these new models of care.

Aging Baby Boomer Population
Our aging population will also contribute to the need for nurses. Baby boomers are getting older and living longer. By 2030, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, up from 13 percent in 2010. In addition, studies have shown that baby boomers are dealing with more chronic illnesses and disability than previous generations. Not only will these factors lead to an increase in hospital admissions, but the care required will be more complex. More nurses in geriatrics will be needed to meet these new challenges.

More Nurses Retiring
There are a significant number of nurses reaching retirement age themselves. A survey from 2013 showed that 55 percent of nurses are age 50 or older. An expected 1 million nurses are set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. As the supply of nurses decreases, the demand for nurses is increasing. This clearly opens up many opportunities for current and future nurses.

Where Will Future Nurses Be Needed?

Health care reform also places a greater focus on primary and preventative care. It is anticipated that the highest percentage of new jobs will be in the outpatient arena. Rather than acute care, many nurses will find the shift in employment will be to ambulatory care.

Outpatient Care Centers
Outpatient care centers are likely to grow. Nurses will be needed at same-day chemotherapy centers, rehabilitation, and outpatient surgery. Community-based jobs will be ample — including dialysis centers, pain management clinics, and physicians’ offices. An increased number of procedures is also expected, as well as more need for complex procedures which had previously only been done in hospitals.

Long-Term Facilities
Economic pressures play a role as well. To save money, patients are being discharged from hospitals earlier. Long-term-care facilities for those suffering from stroke, head trauma, and Alzheimer’s disease, and more are expected to grow. This creates a greater need for nurses in long-term care and rehab facilities. These nurses will need to have a high level skill set, such as advanced cardiac life support and telemetry.

Home Care
A study by the Joint Commission demonstrated that patients and their families prefer to be treated in the dignity of their own home. Home care is anticipated to expand by 55 percent by 2020. Nurses in home care will be providing a greater level of services to a greater number of people.

Nurses can expect to use more technology in the future. In order to improve communication with other disciplines and to give patients greater authority in managing their own treatment, high-tech services such as telehealth and patient visits via Skype are likely to increase. These telehealth services will increase the number of patients who are able to access health care, especially in rural areas where facilities are few and far between. Nurses will be able to provide care to those that previously had little access to quality medical treatment.

New Demand for Increased Quality of Nurses

A well-educated nurse is essential in today’s changing health care environment and job market. Nurses are required to act more independently, assist with case management, and educate patients on health promotion. There is an increased focus on community health care, necessitating an awareness of different socioeconomic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. There is also more exposure to and emphasis on research and technology. These are among the many reasons a bachelor’s degree in nursing is quickly becoming considered the minimal educational requirement for entering the workforce. Those with a Master of Science in Nursing degree are in the best position to advance their careers.

Highly Educated Nurses Needed
Nurses who earn an advanced education will be afforded greater opportunities in the job market. With the push for preventative care, nurses with an advanced education can help make sure patients are taking medication as directed, receiving routine physicals, and more services that help keep people out of hospitals.

The need for specialized, advanced nursing is expected to grow considerably. These nurses can provide safe and effective care in areas where it is lacking. For example, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists provide almost 100 percent of analgesics in rural areas and are the only provider of anesthesia in a third of all hospitals. Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) can deliver babies born to women with uncomplicated pregnancies. They can also perform gynecological exams and family planning services. Clinical nurse leaders (CNL) use their advanced knowledge to care for patients in specialty areas such as cardiac, neonatal, or oncology.

Better Care with Clinical Nurse Leaders
Navigating the changes in our health care system is going to require strong nursing leadership. The clinical nurse leader is an exciting nursing role that is quickly growing as result of the changes in health care and an industry need. As introduced by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, CNLs have a Master of Science in Nursing and sit for a certification exam. The role was created for nurses who want to directly improve the quality of care that is provided at their clinics and hospitals.

CNLs interact directly with patients, while collaborating with other nurses and members of the interdisciplinary care team to develop detailed patient care plans. Using evidence-based information, CNLs not only design, but help evaluate patient care delivery and outcomes. They use their nursing skills to think critically and analyze data to create the best solutions. CNLs apply new research and technology and also share it with other staff members.

CNLs communicate with patients, physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and other health care team members to improve patient care. In a typical day, a clinical nurse leader could review labs and assessments with other nurses, talk to patients and their families about health care goals, and meet with social workers and therapists to organize patient needs. Due to the unique position of this role, CNLs are able to look for ways to help the team be more efficient and improve patient care while also cutting costs by reducing waste and overhead.

Clinical nurse leaders are proving to be very beneficial. Having a CNL as a staff member has been associated with decreased infections, falls, pressure ulcers, and hospital readmissions. Patients, nurses, and physicians are reporting higher patient satisfaction scores. By looking at the bigger picture, CNLs encourage higher-level functioning staff and teamwork to manage care.

A Dynamic Health Care System Needs Dynamic Nurses

Health care reform, a changing patient demographic, and shift to more community and outpatient care will all lead to a greater number of job opportunities for nurses. Nurses with advanced degrees, such as clinical nurse leaders, will be extremely desirable as the future of health care progresses. For more information about how to get your Master of Science in Nursing or how to become a clinical nurse leader visit the Queens University of Charlotte Master of Science in Nursing program here.