There are a lot of reasons why nursing is a rewarding profession with a bright future. If you want to help sick and injured patients, have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and want to be a role model for those around you, nursing is an excellent way to make that happen.
Nursing has been a consistently smart career choice over the years, and the field has expanded quite a bit over the years to include hundreds of job titles, specialties and work environments. But, for many reasons, there has never been a better time than now to join the ranks.
We’ve compiled a list of the top reasons why today is the right time for you to start your educational path toward a career in nursing.
“The biggest factor contributing to the nursing shortage is the influx of sick people,” says Brooke Wallace, co-founder of RegisteredNursing.org. As a travel nurse, Wallace has experience in many different ICU environments.
“The one thing they all have in common is too many patients and not enough staffed beds,” says Wallace.
Registered nurses (RNs) are one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. The profession is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a rate that is much faster than the average profession.
The demand for nurses with advanced degrees is even hotter. The job growth at this level of nursing is expected to swell by 31 percent through 2024. This steady, booming growth across the nursing industry is one reason varying nursing titles snagged fourth in the top 25 best jobs of 2017 by U.S. News & World Report.
“America is seeing vast increases in the number of people over 65. This age group has many medical and health needs, and will put a strain on our health system,” reports the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Wallace points to this factor as one of the bigger ones behind the nursing shortage.
“As the baby boomers age and more and more people have access to insurance, it seems that hospitals are having a hard time keeping up with the demand,” Wallace says. “Staffing units with enough qualified RNs to care for all these very sick people is difficult.”
The baby boomer generation are not only a very large generation, but are also living longer and less healthy than previous generations, according to Medical News Today.
3. Current nurses are reaching retirement age, creating more job openings
The median age of currently-employed nurses is 46, with 50 percent of the workforce close to retirement, according to the ANA. It is expected that by 2020 many of these nurses will begin their retirement, adding to an influx of nursing job openings. The ANA has issued a call to action to start educating nurses now in preparation for these changes.
Advances in technology are rapidly changing the scope of the healthcare industry, including nursing. One field in particular, informatics, has created a whole new career path for nurses. Informatics deals with measuring data where nursing informatics diagnose that data and convert it into easy-to-understand information that can be used for patient treatment and care. Nurses that specialize in data analysis will be able to help forge this new frontier.
The title that once meant one specific role in in healthcare has been growing wider ever since. Nurses today can be entrepreneurs, administrators, policy makers, bloggers, professors, researchers and even doctors of nursing practice at the PhD level of nursing.
“There are so many opportunities out of the hospital for nurses,” says Janice Dolnick, RN, BSN and Legal Nurse Consultant. Dolnick advises nursing students to take classes that pertain to more than just patient care.
“Nursing is a labor-intensive profession, and the long-term physical effects are important to consider. Many nurses suffer from obesity, knee problems, back problems or wrist and hand problems,” Dolnick says. “Gaining some experience and education in the business management role is one thing I wish I could add to my resume.”
As nurses become more mobile throughout healthcare, business, politics and other spheres of society, they gain more influence to change the industry. Plus, nurses who experience burnout on the floor now have more choices to change their work lives without leaving nursing.
6. Nursing has a vibrant community
Nursing is positively stuffed with organizations, community boards and interactive blogs. Larger umbrella associations, like the ANA, trickle down into associations dedicated to specialties, which in turn trickle down to blogging communities, local groups, podcasts and pretty much any resource you could hope to find from fellow nurses. If you are a nurse and have internet access, you’ll never need to feel alone.
As part of an initiative to increase the overall quality of nursing care, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine released a report calling for 80 percent of nurses to hold Baccalaureate degrees by 2020.
“Many hospitals will now only hire registered nurses with a Bachelor’s degree,” Dolnick says. “When I obtained my license through an ASN program, my employer immediately pushed me to return to school to obtain my BSN.”
But despite the push, Dolnick says the current workforce has only about 55% of RNs prepared at that level. While this can limit opportunity for nurses without a Bachelor's degree, it greatly widens the opportunities for those who have one.
Nurses who take advantage of options to further their education will have access to more advanced in-demand jobs. Many institutions offer RN to BSN programs that are designed to maximize the nursing experience RNs already have.
It’s a commonly-known fact that nurses have a lot of flexibility in their schedule, but that’s not the only place that nurses have a plethora of options from which to choose.
Flexibility in location is another reason to pursue a career as a nurse. Nurses can work anywhere from traditional locations, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices, to less-obvious locations, such as home health care, schools and even in the air as an emergency flight nurse.
And if you like to be on the go, travel nursing is always a great bet. Wallace says travel nurses move from hospital to hospital, responding to fill in for sudden staffing needs. Due to the in-demand nature of these jobs, they often pay very well and cover the expense of your travel to boot.
Many healthcare careers offer just one path—get the degree, then get the job. This can be restricting if you aren’t sure what you want your career to look like, or if you prefer to get working faster. Nursing offers multiple paths that can be added to as time goes on.
“I did the a 13-month LPN program, then immediately started a LPN-to-RN program while I worked at an Alzheimer's unit and as an agency LPN,” Wallace says, emphasizing that this route enabled her to begin working quickly while still gaining education. Wallace later completed a RN-to-BSN program online to gain her Bachelor's degree in Nursing.
“I recommend this path to every person I meet who is interested in nursing. This was the fastest way to get nursing and make money while continuing my education.”
Nurses have been consistently rated as the “most respected profession” by consumers, according to Gallup research polls. Nursing is a career that you can be proud of—maybe it’s even a career people will respect you for. While nursing might not be the first profession people think of when looking at the medical world, it is one of the first professions people think of when they look for ethical and honest work (if the Gallup polls are any indication).
“After being a nurse more than 10 years, I can say that some things have changed drastically and others are the same and probably always will be,” Wallace says. “The basic fact for the field of nursing is that the need is there and can’t be replaced by non-nurses.”
Now is a great time to begin a career in nursing for so many reasons. But perhaps an even more important motive for those that choose this path is the constant opportunity for nurses to change lives—a purpose that will never go away.
Think you’re ready to begin a career in nursing? You’ve got plenty of options for becoming a registered nurse in short order. To learn more, check out our article, How to Become an RN Fast: 3 Speedy Options to Suit Your Style.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in September 2013. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2017.