Anyone who has visited a doctor’s office or spent a day in the hospital might feel like they know what it means to be a nurse. But the truth is, nursing is more than meets the eye and much more in demand than Americans probably realize.
Nursing has become the fastest-growing occupation in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, there were approximately 2.6 million nursing jobs in the country. By 2018, estimates show that figure will grow to 3.2 million – a 22 percent increase of a half-million jobs.
Why the Demand?
Many factors contribute to the increasing need for nurses in the workforce. One of the biggest reasons is simple demographics. As the baby boom generation ages, more people need healthcare services. Studies show as many as 1/3 of people over the age of 65 have more than one chronic health condition.
But it isn’t just the aging baby boomers causing the need for more nurses. Jennifer Nuelle-Dimoulas, administrator, clinical operations for Altru Health System, says part of the issue is the high number of veteran nurses nearing retirement. She says of the estimated three million nurses in the United States, about 1/3 of them are over the age of 50.
“By 2025 we expect this will be the largest shortage of nurses since Medicare and Medicaid started in the 1960s,” she says.
Nuelle-Dimoulas says there is also more competition from other occupational fields. Women today aspire to many different kinds of careers, whereas—prior to 1970—they might have felt limited to teaching or nursing.
But healthcare professionals are working hard to encourage people to give nursing another look, and it starts with salaries. Recent nursing school graduates can receive some of the highest starting salaries in the nation and have potential for raises as they gain career experiences.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for a nurse in 2015 was approximately $67,000. Nurses in personal care services, which include work in doctors’ offices, hospital and outpatient facilities, are the leading earners.
Nurses who opt to continue their training and education can expect even higher salaries. Advanced practice nurse practitioners (APRN’s) which include nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners have a median salary of about $105,000 a year.
Room for Growth and Change
Many people who choose nursing for a career will tell you they enjoy the flexibility it affords. With more than 100 nursing specialties—as well as advanced nursing degrees—nurses don’t need to stay in the same career track for years unless they choose. Movement can be lateral—from one specialized area to the next—or progressive, where nurses climb the ranks to supervisory or administrative positions.
With the great number of nursing jobs available at healthcare facilities, many nurses looking for employment can write their own ticket, choosing what kind of nursing work they’d like to do and the hours and days they want to work.
But Nuelle-Dimoulas says nursing goes beyond direct patient care. She says nurses with advanced degrees are policymakers, researchers and decision-makers. “Nursing is as creative as one sets their mind to be,” Nuelle-Dimoulas says. “The opportunities in nursing are expansive. Whatever piques your interest, there is a field of nursing for it. I’ve lived that creativity myself.”
Before accepting her position at Altru in 2016, Nuelle-Dimoulas—who is a native of Langdon, North Dakota—used her nurse and nurse practitioner degrees in a variety of ways from editing a medical journal to developing healthcare applications in IT and working in international medicine in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“I would challenge everyone to expand their view of nursing with a dose of creativity and imagination. The possibilities are limitless,” she says. “I have the benefit of looking at my career in a rearview mirror and I can see just how incredible it is.”
Do what you love. Make a difference. Join our team of over 4,000 health professionals and support staff committed to caring for the region for more than 100 years. Learn about nursing career opportunities at Altru Health System.