Job market for nurses full of new opportunities
Due to factors ranging from an oncoming retirement wave to regional shortages, the job market for nurses is full of opportunities and benefits, including competitive salary offerings and a multitude of positions to choose from.
According to the Florida Center for Nursing’s 2016 annual report, Florida’s potential registered nurse (RN) workforce gained nearly 21,000 nurses between 2012 and 2015. The majority of these new RN’s are recent graduates of nursing programs.
Likewise, the advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) supply increased by about 4,000 over the same period. Most of the ARNP nurse supply is attributed to a greater number of RN’s returning to school to complete advanced degrees.
The licensed practical nurse (LPN) workforce has experienced equal gains and losses over the past three years, so the cumulative change in the LPN workforce is very small.
“The job market seems to be more of an open one where many of the students have multiple job offers from different facilities and are picking and choosing what types of nursing positions they want to work in,” said Marcella Rutherford, dean of the College of Nursing at Nova Southeastern University.
This is a notable change from as recently as three or four years ago, she said, when students didn’t have as many opportunities right out of school, but is part of a regularly recurring cycle in the nursing world.
“In literature it is very well publicized that by 2022 there will be a very significant nursing shortage across the US because of two factors: the large population of nurses that fall into the baby boomer category are beginning to retire, and the aging of the population in general means a greater need for nurses,” Dr. Rutherford said.
The Florida Center for Nursing reports that currently 41.5% of ARNP’s, 44% of RN’s and 38.1% of LPN’s are over age 50. This group of nurses is expected to retire in the next five to ten years, resulting in the loss of highly skilled mentors with years of organizational and experiential knowledge.
“We know that there’s a high market for specialized nurses who can deliver high quality care, including nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and midwives,” said John McFadden, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and an associate professor of anesthesiology at Barry University.
Many internal and external factors contribute to nursing shortages, he said.
“Young women were traditionally the group that entered the nursing profession. Now, they have many more opportunities – from studying cybersecurity to being president of the United States. That is a great thing, but it dilutes the number of people who would consider nursing as a career.”
According to Dr. Rutherford, “we’re also seeing a utilization of nurses in many more settings than before.”
“The majority still go to the hospital setting… but many conditions that before were treated only inpatient are now being treated and cared for in a variety of settings. What you’re seeing is nurses getting utilized in those environments because patients are transitioning from acute care to outpatient more quickly than it would have happened 10 or 15 years ago.”
Hospitals are the top employment setting for RN’s (63.5%) and ARNP’s (44.3%), while most LPN’s (38.8%) work in long-term care settings. About 39% of ARNP’s work in primary care settings.
Clinical specialties vary by the type of nurse – most ARNP’s specialize in anesthesia and adult and family health, RN’s tend to specialize in acute or critical care and medical surgical, and a large proportion of LPN’s work in geriatrics.
“There’s still going to be a need for nurses at the bedside but there’s a growing need for nurses in the primary care setting as well, such as accountable care organizations, hospices, home health, health clinics and other resources related to care.”
Pre-licensure, nursing graduates in South Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing are finding it easier to get jobs due to their clinical experience, Dr. Rutherford said.
“The salary offerings and the packages are close across South Florida,” Dr. Rutherford said. “There are differences, but you’d have to look at the full benefit package to do an accurate comparison. I do hear about quoted salaries but the differences are not huge.”
The hiring market is certainly competitive, Dr. McFadden said.
“Many facilities help with tuition assistance, either while the student is in the nursing program or upon graduation. They have been very creative with residency programs that help new nurses transition into their role. They’re looking at both financial and non-financial incentives.”
As the nursing shortage increases, Dr. Rutherford said, hospitals will look for ways to retain the nurses they have to avoid the costs of retraining.
“It costs approximately $60,000 to retrain a new nurse when one leaves – it’s very costly,” she said. “When you have a trained nurse that knows the facility, culture, patients, resources and other team players, it takes time and it takes training to bring in new nurses.”
In past shortages, she said, facilities have offered incentives like educational money and funding and more flexible hours.
“We certainly have a growing population, a diverse population, with healthcare needs that are unique, and that is absolutely a contributing factor,” Dr. McFadden said.
“You can’t blame shortages on any one factor – it’s a combination of factors that results in these cycles of shortages and there are regional differences as well,” he said. “But no matter where you live, nursing care is an integral part of healthcare. Who can imagine a hospital or home care facility without nurses?”