The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report on registered nurses predicted a 26 percent growth rate in employment for registered nurses during the 2010-2020 period. That’s considered “faster than average” when compared to all other populations.
A number of factors are expected to contribute to growth in particular areas. For instance, the aging of the baby boomer population and increasing pressure on hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible is expected to spur job growth in outpatient care centers, as well as in home health and long-term care facilities.
For the coming year, however, it’s unlikely that the overall employment situation will be significantly different from last year.
“I haven’t seen a lot of change,” said Geraldine “Polly” Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN, chief executive officer and executive director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), which surveys nursing schools to gauge the experiences of new graduates in finding employment.
Do your homework
If you plan to look for a new nursing job in 2013, it’s important to prepare yourself. Check out the job market in the area where you wish to live, or, if you’re open to different locations, find out where nurses with your specialty have the most opportunities. Know which employers are hiring, and what types of positions are in most demand.
For example, in the field of school nursing, some areas of the country are eagerly looking for qualified candidates to fill vacant positions in schools, while other regions can barely afford the nursing staff they already have, due to funding issues.
“It’s all over the map, depending on the state,” said Linda Davis-Alldritt, RN, president of the National Association of School Nurses. “Some states are seeing not so much a shortage of school nurses but a shortage of funded positions. The further west you go, that’s the situation, especially in California.”
Although the overall job market for nurses is predicted to be good, nurses in certain pockets of the country--particularly the ones with the least amount of experience--may have trouble landing their dream job right away. But that’s been true for the last few years in high-demand areas like the Bay Area in California and a few other places, and experts typically recommend that job seekers show flexibility in those situations.
If you’re willing to move or work the night shift or try other types of nursing jobs, you’ll be in a better position to get hired; this flexibility can also help new graduates acquire the basic experience that so many employers are seeking.
Take advantage of advanced education
What is most likely to help you land a new job in the current health care environment? More education and training. That might mean attaining a certification in your specialty area, or it could mean returning to school for another degree.
A baccalaureate degree could be especially useful. The Institute of Medicine’s landmark Future of Nursing report, released in 2010, called for increasing the percentage of the nursing workforce with a BSN to 80 percent by 2020, and a growing number of hospitals are prioritizing candidates with the degree.
According to information gathered from nursing schools in August 2012 by the AACN, 88 percent of new graduates with a BSN degree received job offers within four to six months of graduation.
“We’re always very pleased to see the baccalaureate graduates are getting hired,” said Bednash, adding that employers “understand they can make a choice, and they are going straight to the best-educated clinicians and hiring them.”
Graduates with master’s degrees fared even better; within four to six months after graduation, 92 percent of them were fielding job offers, according to the AACN’s survey.
“The hottest commodity on the market today is a graduate-prepared nurse practitioner,” said Bednash.
Expect more jobs on the horizon, thanks to ACA
When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June 2012, many noted that the law will likely expand the possibilities for nurses in the future.
As the law continues to undergo implementation, more than 30 million additional people could be added to the insurance rolls. Those people will need primary care--and primary care providers. Advanced practice nurses will be called upon to fill those spots in many places, especially in light of the ongoing shortage of primary physicians. In fact, the January 2013 issue of Health Affairs even noted that the use of “non-physicians” could help improve access to care for many people and avert a physician shortage in the future.
“They ought to be thinking carefully about going on to get a graduate degree,” Bednash said of nurses who are interested in the new possibilities opening up.
The Affordable Care Act also encourages the patient-centered medical home model, which utilizes care coordinators.
“And that’s a nursing role,” said Bednash.