With the U.S. economy faltering and talk of recession and layoffs filling the airwaves and newspapers, people continue to need medical care, and nurses remain in high demand. While we may be in a recession, disease and illness knows no recession.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s March 2008 Employment Situation Summary reports employment in the financial and credit markets has fallen by 116,000 since October 2006, construction has dropped 331,000 jobs since September 2006, and real estate has lost 34,000 jobs since June 2006. Health care, on the other hand, continues to grow, adding 360,000 jobs during the past 12 months.
The employment outlook continues to look bright for nurses. The Labor Department estimates employment of registered nurses will grow 23 percent from 2006 to 2016 and the country will need 500,000 new RNs by 2016.
“I’ve been a nurse since 1969 and have experienced different economic up and down turns,” said Linda Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN, senior associate dean for academics at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee. “There has always been a sustained need for nurses and a shortage of nurses.”
Pat Witzel, RN, MS, MBA, associate vice president and chief nursing officer at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester (New York) Medical Center, added, “Nursing is not generally affected by the economy. People becoming ill or needing health care services is not dependent on what happens economically.”
As with members of the community, nurses are aging and with the average nurse nearing 50 years, many will soon retire.
“The workforce will be consistently losing nurses during the next five, 10, 15 years, and those nurses will need to be replaced,” said Hila Richardson, DrPH, MPH, BSN, professor and director of the undergraduate, continuing education and community health programs at New York University (NYU) College of Nursing.
Although enrollments have increased, schools are not producing enough nurses.
“The number of nurses who graduated has gone up during the last 40 years, but, the interesting piece is the demand for nurses also has increased,” Norman said. “Nursing programs have had difficulty keeping up with the demand.”
“The students are looking at nursing as offering more stability in the job market,” Richardson said. “They also are looking for work that is meaningful. Sometimes working in a bank is not gratifying.”
Heidi Sadowsky is one of them, now studying in an accelerated program.
“It was a calling that I didn’t answer until two years ago,” Sadowsky said. “I love it every time I go to the clinical setting. Having five minutes with a patient and touching their lives is incredibly rewarding. I haven’t looked back once. It reaffirms I did the right thing.”
Although the change had more to do with her desire for something more satisfying rather than the economy, she acknowledges her “timing is good.”
Nurses provide hands-on care in homes, hospices and ambulatory centers. They work for insurance, disease management and pharmaceutical companies.
Nursing positions exist in schools, in forensics and in research, said Baumlein, adding, “The opportunities for any individual are almost endless.”
Nevidjon foresees multiple opportunities for nurses willing to change with the dynamic health care marketplace and to learn new skills.
“Nursing not only is a recession-proof profession but it is one that has multiple opportunities,” Norman added. “The value of nursing is being appreciated throughout the health care industry.”
Article Written by: Debra Wood, RN, contributor
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