Could the imminent nursing shortage be a career opportunity?

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carla and laverneIn case you hadn’t heard, there’s a debate about health care going on in this country right now. I don’t imagine any of you are unaware because you can’t read or watch anything without hearing about the debate. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, we’re all going to face a predicament: People are living longer than they did generations ago, the amount of baby boomers who will need medical care is huge, and the amount of nurses is inadequate. And if the show Scrubs is to be believed, there will be even less time for zany antics during this shortage!

This past weekend PBS reran the episode “Nurses Needed” of its documentary program Now. Although it originally aired last fall, the facts remain the same. (At the end of the segment, producers do catch up with a featured patient to see how she’s doing one year later.) By 2020, the country could have a shortage of nurses nearing 500,000 or even 1 million.

Look at this study on nursing from the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2000, the amount of full-time equivalent (FTE) licensed nurses was 1,891,000. The demand for FTE licensed nurses was 2,001,500. By 2020, there will be fewer FTE licensed nurses at just 1,808,000. Yet the demand will rise to 2,824,900.

A lack of nurses can translate into less attention spent with each patient, the program points out, and studies have proven that too many patients per nurse can negatively affect medical care. With fewer nurses in hospitals and other health-care facilities, the amount of patients per nurse will continue to grow. The program also  explains that fewer nurses are choosing to teach due to low salaries, therefore adversely affecting the number of new nurses. And many nurses are choosing to work for pharmaceutical companies because the pay can be substantially higher than hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics and many other health care facilities.

If nursing appeals to you–and it’s not an easy job, so it’s definitely not for everyone–this could be the right time to look into it. The demand for nurses will only increase in the coming decades, so you’ll be in demand. Depending on where you decide to work, wages can vary. Here are some median annual salary figures from CBSalary.com to give you an idea:

(Salaries vary by location, of course. And there are many other nursing options available.)

To watch the episode of Now, click here.

17 Comments
  1. Hey Ms. Rachel my name is Yanet Rodriguez I’m from Cuba and I has my degree in Social Work entil 2001 I worked in my country for 4 years and I interesting on your program and I have experience on the Healthly program because I studied Psychology for 5 years too.

    Let me know how is the “job”

    Thanks.

    Yanet.

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  3. Nursing shortages have nearly come to pass in the Charlotte, NC area. Seems that every nurse in the area took a job when spouses were laid off during recent economic downturns. And, there has been a huge migration from northern states into the area.

  4. I would love to go to school to be a CNA. I have 12 years experience in the Medical Field, as a Phone Operator. Please contact ,me if you can train me.
    Thank You, & God bless,
    Patricia Sacco

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