Sunday, April 19, 2009


"Jobs Scarce, Even for Nurses" reads the caption of an article from the Washington Post from April 5th. Readers hear that the current economy freezes the field of nursing once short of workers. The article has interviews with area nurses looking for jobs and hospital administrators in charge of patient care services. Applicants complain they do not even get courtesy call backs. At Calvert Memorial Hospital the VP for patient care said "In medical and surgical, I have absolutely zero openings."

It sounds gloomy, but the truth comes later when the author admits the current situation is a "blip when the [bad] economy masks the true nursing shortage." The author also reported "that 27,771 qualified applicants were turned away by nursing schools last year largely because a lack of instructors."

Over the last 12 months the total of America’s jobs are down 4.8 million, but health care jobs are up 377,000 anyway. Only education and government have any job increases, but health care has more than double the increase there.

There are few occupations with a better job outlook than registered nursing, which is the 6th largest occupation if we combine all elementary and secondary education teaching as one occupation. Register nursing with 2.5 million jobs is 4 to 5 times the number of physicians and more than any other healthcare job.

Registered nurses make up the biggest share of hospital jobs: generally 25 to 30 percent of hospital staffing. No other occupation comes close to that share and no hospital can operate without them. Right now about 60 percent of the nation’s 2.5 million registered nurses work in hospitals whereas only 26 percent of the nation’s 749,000 Licensed Practical Nurses and 29 percent of the nation’s 1.5 million Nurses Aides work in hospitals. Registered nursing has more employment than Licensed Practical Nursing and Nurses Aides combined, and the gap is growing.

Hospitals are not finding ways to reduce their registered nursing needs and maintain patient care, nor substitute cheaper Licensed Practical Nurses or Nurses aides in their place. Instead, registered nursing jobs are up an average 39,810 a year between 2000 and 2007; Licensed Practice Nurses are up 5,681; Nurses Aides are up 16,686. Registered nursing is growing faster than jobs in the national economy and faster than Licensed Practical nursing and nurses aides.

Registered nurses have opportunities to advance to higher specialties as advance practice nurses: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. These possibilities for advancement are not open to Licensed Practical Nurses or Nurses Aides unless they return to school for degree training to be registered nurses.

The 40 percent of registered nursing jobs outside of hospitals are scattered in ambulatory health care, especially office practice, nursing facilities, education and government. All of these sectors including education and government employment continue to grow despite the recession with some of their new jobs in nursing and nursing instructors, also in short supply.

Need a job? Be a nurse. Now you know.