There is currently no argument that healthcare is a growth industry in the early 21st century. In fact, within that socioeconomic reality, nursing still stands as one of the powerhouse careers that will be fueled by that growth.
With an aging population and increased need for both preventative, chronic, and acute disease and symptom management, there is no end in sight for nursing’s elevation in status and opportunity.
The aging of America
In the United States, it is projected that one in five Americans will be aged 65 or over by the year 2029. As an exponential number of members of the Baby Boomer generation continue to retire and leave the workforce, their individual and collective need for healthcare services will rise along a similar curve of historic proportions.
In light of these incontrovertible demographic shifts, the need for an enormous number of qualified healthcare providers is unavoidable. From CNAs and RNs to nurse practitioners and Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNP), opportunity awaits those who read the writing on the wall.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells it like it is
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its annual report of employment statistics in the spring of each year. In March of 2017, the BLS released its report once again (based on data from May, 2016), and the numbers spoke for themselves.
According to the BLS, 2.9 million registered nurses were employed in May of 2016, and 1.6 million of those were employed in the “general medical and surgical hospitals industry.” The BLS estimates that job growth for registered nurses will be approximately 16 percent between 2017 and 2024.
Meanwhile, significant statistics were also reported for nurse practitioners, with an astounding projected job growth of up to 31 percent between 2017 and 2024.
If one understands that job growth across all industries is projected at seven percent for the same period, there is an obvious advantage to considering a career as either a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner at this time in history.
In order to add fuel to the nursing employment fire, if one were to assess the 15 highest paying nursing jobs according to BLS data, it would show that Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), general NPs, and gerontological nurse practitioners make up the top three jobs on that list.
And finally, CRNAs, NPs, nurse midwives (CNMs), and other advanced practice registered nurses hold firm footing in several lists of the most promising careers in the 21st century.
Education, employment, and opportunity
When we further break down BLS data, there is no doubt that the achievement of a college education generally produces greater income. And for those who wish to advance within the nursing profession, employment opportunities and earnings equally increase with the level of education in most locations.
Advancing within the nursing profession can mean pursuing a higher level of clinical education in order to practice as an autonomous APRN. While APRNs do not have complete autonomy across the country, almost half the states in the U.S. and the Veterans Administration (VA) have granted full practice to such nurse providers, and most nursing leaders predict that the list of states allowing unrestricted NP practice will continue to grow.
However, if an advanced clinical degree is not attractive to a particular nursing professional, opportunities exist for advancing towards executive nursing leadership, nursing management, education, informatics, and other areas of non-clinical specialty.
Nursing advancement in the 21st century
With the aforementioned exponential aging of the population, the healthcare system will no doubt need more qualified nurse clinicians, educators, leaders, executives, and innovators.
Nurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States; couple this trust placed in nurses with unprecedented room for advancement, education, and employment, and the opportunities for forward thinking nurses are boundless.
For those nurses who wish to embrace the 21st century nursing and healthcare paradigms, there is virtually no limit to the opportunities that can be created and seized in a aging society hungry for high-quality healthcare.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at NurseKeith.com.
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