Nursing student working in the field taking blood pressure. Photo Courtesy: Lower Columbia College, Longview, Washington, USA
Most people are motivated to become nurses because of the desire to help people from all walks of life, but it definitely doesn’t hurt that the news has been filled with reports of a nursing shortage in recent years. This perception has led many men and women to believe that nursing will be a quick path to employment.
Still, after you become an RN, it can be a struggle to find a stable job, which can leave you wondering where exactly this nursing shortage really is. According to the UCLA School of Nursing, the field still employs around 10 percent more workers than it did the year before. The reason it might not seem evident to young nurses looking for work is because many of these new nursing jobs didn’t exist before. A combination of new technology and an aging population means nurses now have to look far outside the box.
1. Nurses and Elder Care
In the immediate future, there will be so many elderly patients that virtually every nurse will be required to know how to care for them, regardless of their title. Nursing homes are particularly hard-hit by this increase in older patients. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of nursing home jobs advertised in the past year jumped 120 percent.
Of course, low pay, long hours, and sometimes unsafe conditions make it difficult to find people dedicated to working in nursing homes, and the industry has a long way to go towards making improvements. But nursing homes are not your only option when it comes to elderly care. More and more patients are opting for senior living facilities or simply at-home care, and private nursing is a great way to make money as well as deliver one-on-one medical attention to older people in need. You can even do all the related paperwork and referrals from home.
2. Jobs in ‘Tele-Health’
Remote health care based around technological connections has been touted as a possible solution to the nursing shortage in America. Telehealth comes in all sorts of appearances, but it’s often tied to serving patients who cannot travel to a hospital because they are too sick, too elderly, or live in a rural area. Hospitals and private clinics are developing more triage departments, where nurses can work over the phone to counsel patients on the severity of their condition, make appointments, and prioritize patient loads for doctors.
There are also opportunities in home care as individual patients get used to monitoring their vitals with new technology. Nurses can keep track of a patient’s ongoing conditions by computer, becoming the first to know when a medical emergency arises.
3. Retail Clinics
The healthcare crisis in America affects much more than the elderly. With so many patients lacking adequate medical insurance, there is a huge market for retail clinics, whether at drug stores, chain stores, or more upscale shopping centers. Customers are paying lower prices to get basic care for themselves and their children, and trained nurses on staff are always needed.
For nurses who are just starting out and struggling to compete with the population of experienced RNs at hospitals, this is a great alternative for gaining experience in the field. Harvard Health Publications estimates there will be 3,200 retail clinics throughout the country by 2014, and they often employ way more nurse practitioners than actual doctors.
When you’re wondering if the nursing shortage might be overhyped, you have to look at the way the healthcare landscape is changing. The need for nurses will still be there for years to come, but in many new and specialized areas, that need is already skyrocketing. It’s helpful to remember the median age of an RN is 46, and newly-trained, younger nurses have an opportunity to look for unconventional career opportunities as their experienced peers head towards retirement. There are always patients who need care, no matter what form it comes in.
Writer Brett Harris is an avid blogger. Interested in nursing? Check out the top 10 online nursing schools.