In this second decade of the 21st century, the nursing profession is in the midst of a period of expansive growth with the emergence of numerous gains and opportunities for nurses of varying educational backgrounds.
Nursing continues to be the largest sector of the healthcare industry, providing both the backbone and lifeblood of American healthcare delivery. From the care of an expanding geriatric population to an unlimited realm of entrepreneurial potential, nurses can leverage their skill, expertise, knowledge, and the trust of the public in myriad ways.
Positive nursing job growth
According to recent reports, healthcare is projected to soon become the largest sector of the American economy, with both spending and job creation increasing in coming years. In February of 2016 alone, hospitals added over 10,000 jobs, and home care and physician offices added over 7,000 each.
While some regions of the country may see slowed demand for nurses due to a variety of economic factors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 16% job growth for registered nurses between 2014 and 2024.
Needless to say, an ageing population and a mushrooming healthcare infrastructure certainly paint a picture that demand for qualified nurses is unlikely to decrease for the foreseeable future. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts the need for one million new nurses by 2022, stating that long-term predictions for nursing job growth will trump regional slumps in hiring.
APRNs on the ascendant
One area of significant growth for the nursing profession is the increased demand for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs should continue to fill the gap in primary care and geriatrics as a shortage of primary care physicians and geriatricians continues to manifest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives will be 31% between 2014 and 2024, much greater than the average for other occupations.
In more and more states, APRNs are gaining increased autonomy; full practice authority for APRNs is a boon for rural health, primary care, geriatrics, and other sectors of healthcare delivery. APRNs are speaking out in favor of increased autonomy and less opposition from physician groups to this affordable, intelligent answer to gaps in primary care.
Nurse entrepreneurship blossoms
While the demand for APRNs and generalist nurses will continue, many nurses are eschewing normal clinical practice for entrepreneurial ventures. Johnson and Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing’s Future has acknowledged the flourishing of entrepreneurial opportunities available to nurses, and organizations like the National Nurses in Business Association provide practical support, training, and camaraderie for nurses venturing into the entrepreneurial space.
Nurses open to out-of-the-box opportunities are engaging in a variety of business activities, including nurse-run home health agencies, health coaching, freelance writing, serving as consultants, providing concierge geriatric case management, and working as Legal Nurse Consultants or Nurse Life Care Planners.
For nurses retiring from the bedside and those desiring flexible schedules or the ability to work from home, entrepreneurship provides opportunities for nurses to contribute to society and earn a living on their own terms.
The nurse’s oyster
Despite some setbacks (e.g.: legislative battles over APRN autonomy or regional economic slumps), the world is generally the earnest nurse’s oyster in the early 21st century. Opportunities for nurses are expanding, and job growth will maintain a positive momentum throughout the current decade, and beyond.
Nurses—and those who wish to enter the profession—would be wise to read the writing on the wall, keep their finger on the pulse of the healthcare industry, and choose promising, growth-oriented career directions within nursing. Regional economic differences notwithstanding, the state of the profession is strong, and expansive opportunities are in the offing.
Nurses’ continued presence at the top of the Gallup poll demonstrates that the American public places a great deal of trust in us, individually and collectively. That trust can be leveraged in numerous ways, and astute nurses keen on remunerative and satisfying careers are unlikely to be disappointed as they explore the potential opportunities available within this burgeoning backbone of 21st-century healthcare.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist for Nurse.com. 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.