The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its 2010-11 outlook for the nursing profession. The department notes that registered nurses (RNs) constitute the largest healthcare occupation with a total of 2.6 million jobs in 2008. Approximately 60% of all nurses work in hospitals. Another 8% of jobs were in physician offices, 5% in home healthcare, 5% in nursing care facilities, and 3% in employment services. Job opportunities are rated as excellent regarding growth in the demand for nurses in the healthcare industry. Many employers are reporting shortfalls of nursing staff and are having difficulties attracting nurses to their facilities.
Median wages for RNs were approximately $62,500 in 2008. The highest 10% of nurses earned an average of approximately $92,500. Nursing remains attractive because many employers offer flexible work schedules, child care, educational benefits, and bonus programs. 21% of nurses are union members. Looking to the future, an increase in educational opportunities for students to train in the nursing profession is essential to meet upcoming demand. Lack of available space for qualified applicants at nursing schools persists and is fueling an increasing shortage of filled nursing positions.
The numbers are staggering. In 2008 there were 2,618,700 nurses in the US. It is projected that there will be a need for 3,200,200 by 2018. That's a creation of 581,500 new nursing positions, a 22% increase. However, the rate of employment growth is not projected to be even across all nursing healthcare settings. Growth of nursing jobs in hospitals is expected to grow only 17% while growth in physician’s offices will grow at a 48% rate. This is attributed to the slow growth of inpatients (patients remaining in the hospital over 24 hours), earlier discharges, and an increase in outpatient procedures. Home healthcare services will grow at a rate of 33%, nursing care facilities at a 25% rate, and RN jobs in employment services at a 24% rate. An aging population combined with financial pressures on hospitals to release patients earlier will drive the growth rate of residential care facilities and home healthcare. A spike in job growth is anticipated for nurses providing care for the long-term rehabilitation of stroke and head injury patients and also patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Nursing education is continuing to run into difficulties. A continuing increase in nursing education applicants has caused many nursing schools to reject qualified applicants due to a shortage of nursing faculty. An increase in availability in nursing schools and nursing continuing education programs could help meet the growing demand. Hospitals will also face difficulties in attracting nurses to their facilities. Although the growth in new nursing jobs at hospitals is expected to be only 17%, the high turnover rate of existing jobs will drive shortages. The largest shortages are expected in rural areas and inner city regions. An especially high demand is expected for advanced practice specialties in nursing: clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists. In many areas, nurses will represent a substantial percentage of primary care providers to the public.