Nursing industry experts forecast positive job numbers, need for BSN

RN to BSN PhotoA strong health care market has continued to fuel tremendous job growth for medical professionals, including nurses. In fact, nurses now comprise the largest segment of the health care workforce, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and organizations are adding new jobs to the market faster than they can be filled. This trend has created a deep nursing shortage that has permeated the industry throughout the better part of a decade and is projected to continue well into the foreseeable future with the Southern and Western regions of the United States being hit the hardest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the number of job openings for nurses due to market growth and replacements will reach 1.2 million by 2020. Although there are numerous causes for this disparity in supply and demand, the result is a strong job market in 2013 for nurses who want new career opportunities.

Market Conditions Cause Nursing Shortage

Many plausible causes could explain the lingering nursing shortage that has plagued the health care industry for years.

An aging population tops the list because it puts extra stress on an already overwhelmed industry. This demographic pressure continues to mount as baby boomers reach their 60s and beyond. Health care becomes a relative necessity as people age, creating a bigger demand for patient care, including progressive treatment services that often involve the use of advanced technology. The health care field needs nurses who have specialized skills and practice to provide innovative care to this aging population.

Many current nursing professionals are nearing retirement age, which leaves leadership gaps in health care facilities across the country. The AACN reports that the average age of nurses is 44.5 years-old, and nurses in their 50s are expected to account for nearly one-quarter of the registered nurse population.

A major concern for both the health care and higher education industries is the inability of U.S. nursing schools to keep pace with the enrollment demand. A recent AACN report on enrollment and graduation rates found that nursing schools turned away nearly 76,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate and graduate nursing programs because of inadequate resources, including faculty members, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors and budgets. Such data suggest nursing programs are simply unable to keep pace with the nursing demand, so many universities have started to build online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs to free up resources and provide a bachelor’s degree to more qualified applicants.

Education requirements are phasing many experienced nurses out of the workplace as health care facilities, including hospitals, move toward a BSN-requirement for all nursing staff in order to qualify for the coveted American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program.

“The role nurses will play in addressing the health care needs of society in the future will be determined by their education,” said Carmella Moran, Director of the School of Nursing at Aurora University. “The trend in nursing is to make the BSN required for entry into practice and a push for academic progression for all those already employed in nursing.”

The AACN reports that 39.1 percent of health care settings require a bachelor’s degree, and 77.4 percent expressed a strong preference for a BSN. Only 50 percent of current registered nurses have a BSN or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The good news for BSN-prepared nursing professionals, students or current nurses enrolled in bachelor’s programs is that tremendous job opportunities exist in health care after graduation. The same report found that 57 percent of BSN students had already been offered a job at the time of graduation and 88 percent of new BSN graduates had a job within four to six months.

Because of the increasing complexity of the health care industry, administrators and hiring managers are seeking educated and experienced nursing professionals to fill leadership gaps and take on the new challenges of high-tech medicine.

“The rapid development of diagnostic and treatment technologies in the past several years has added to the complexity of patient care,” said Moran. “The BSN-prepared nurse adds value to patient care through the ability to integrate the new technologies and evidence-based research to patient care delivery.”

Where the Jobs Are

BSN-prepared nurses are in a good position to find employment in a variety of health care settings. The U.S. Department of Labor projects significant job growth in a variety of health care settings. Specific data is listed below.

  • One of the fastest-growing industries for nurses is the private health care sector, such as physicians’ offices. Nurses in this sector should expect a 39 percent growth in employment in the near future.
  • The health care industry must cater to the needs of an aging population through expanded senior patient care and treatment services. Home health care nurses could see a 39 percent growth rate in the decade as elderly patients seek private medical care in their homes. Additionally, nursing care centers that focus on treatment and rehabilitation therapy along with long term care should see a 20 percent growth in jobs.
  • Although hospitals are projected to add jobs to industry at a 22 percent growth rate in markets nationwide, including Chicago, these facilities also see high turnover, which creates additional jobs in the labor force for nursing professionals.

Chicago-area nurses receive relatively high compensation. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for all types of nurses across various health care sectors is $70,737. Large health care providers generally have a higher pay scale for their nursing professionals; however, there might not be as much on-the-job flexibility, and these jobs may come with long, unpredictable work schedules. Many seasoned as well as new nurses are finding their fit in private practices or physicians’ offices because they can maintain a traditional work schedule and office flexibility.

The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area market is the largest health care employer in the state according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment forecast for Chicago-area nurses is strong, and BSN-prepared professionals will fare better in the job market that values education and experience.

Moran says that Aurora University offers an RN to BSN and MSN degree online and in the traditional setting in an effort to support the initiative for preparing a well-educated workforce.

“The program coursework is built upon a student’s prior learning and provides opportunities for accelerated, individualized study,” said Moran. “Graduates of the program are prepared to step into leadership positions within the profession.”

For more information on the Aurora University Online RN to BSN and MSN degree programs, visit online.aurora.edu/programs.