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Nursing Beyond the Recession
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23rd Jun, 2009 | Source : Newsweek Showcase Archives

The current economic downturn in the U.S. is impacting all industries, including nursing. The decade-long nursing shortage of registered nurses (RNs) has stabilized in some parts of the country since employment patterns are changing. To make ends meet, many nurses are coming out of retirement, delaying retirement, or moving from part- to full-time work. At the same time, some hospitals have put a freeze on new hires and individuals needing care are not seeking treatment due to a loss of insurance and the high cost of health care services. Taken together, these developments have resulted in fewer opportunities for new nurses in the short-term, with some new graduates no longer getting their first choice of RN position right out of nursing school.

For those considering a nursing career, hope is on the horizon. By all accounts, workforce analysts project that the nursing shortage will resurface, possibly with greater intensity, after the economy recovers. Dr. Peter Buerhaus from Vanderbilt University projects the nation’s nursing shortage may grow to 40% by the year 2025 which translates into a wealth of opportunities for those seeking to enter the profession within the next few years.

Why choose nursing? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Competitive salaries: New RNs can earn up to $50,000 annually; advance practice registered nurses with graduate-level education can command six-figure salaries.
  • Job security: According to the American Hospital Association, three-quarters of all vacancies in hospitals are for RNs.
  • Career outlook is bright: The healthcare sector of the economy is continuing to grow, despite significant job losses in nearly all major industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other care settings added 27,000 new jobs in February 2009, a month when 681,000 jobs were eliminated across the country. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, RNs likely be recruited to fill many of these new positions.
  • Endless opportunities and flexibility in workplace: Nursing offers a wide array of professional practice opportunities in a variety of clinical settings. For example, though acute care facilities employ the highest number of nurses, home health care agencies, clinics, hospices, universities, the armed forces, and large companies also employ nurses. Within these settings, nurses are educated to work with patients across the life span, from the neonate to the older adult. The choices in specialization are immense, including, pediatrics, critical care, psychiatry, dialysis, oncology, transplant, emergency room, community health, hospice/palliative care, geriatrics, among others. Nurses with advanced education also fill a variety of leadership roles including nursing faculty, administrator, researcher, policymaker, and independent practitioner.
  • No other healthcare team member spends more time at the bedside than the nurse. The nurse is highly valued for his/her contribution to the care of patients, whether they are working in a clinic, in a hospital, or out in the community. Because of their unique role in having a large amount of time with patients, their assessments are crucial to maintaining patient safety and quality care.

For more information on specific nursing roles, see the Career Profiles section on the Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow Web site ( or the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future Web site (



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