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Your RN Career Outlook: Behind the Numbers

RN job opportunities are expected to grow through 2020.As you take your steps on the way to your nursing career, you probably keep hearing that becoming a registered nurse (RN) will be a great investment in your future or that you’ll have practically guaranteed job security.

“There are always jobs in healthcare, at every different level,” says Stephanie Payne, RN, a 31-year nursing veteran and author. “Nursing is a good paying job. The education is rigorous, but there are lots of opportunities.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agrees: They say that RN job opportunities will grow 26 percent through 2020. Compare that to only 14 percent for all other occupations. It’s easy to see that the RN career outlook is favorable.

Knowing that job opportunities for RNs will continue to grow is essential so you can have confidence in your career choice. But it’s always helpful to know the why behind such statistics. So, why is the demand for RNs increasing faster than the demand for other healthcare careers? Here are four reasons.

1. America’s aging population needs more medical care

Geriatric care is on the rise in America, and for good reason—about one in every eight Americans is over the age of 65, says the Administration on Aging. But as this generation gets older and stays more active than previous generations, they’ll need more medical care, the BLS says. Apparently, RNs will be in greatest need in hospitals, doctor’s offices and nursing homes.

Whether they’re always careful or tend to be accident-prone, people always need medical care, the elderly included.

2. Hospitals release patients sooner now than in the past

Hospitals may discharge patients who still need medical treatments, leading them to seek alternate care like nursing homes—so those facilities are in greater need of nurses as a result.

“We don’t keep people in the hospital very long anymore; it’s just the way healthcare is delivered,” Payne says. “For instance, 20 years ago people with cardiac bypass surgery would be in the hospital for five to seven days, and now you’re home in 24 hours.”

Hospitals tend to discharge patients as soon as possible due to financial pressures, says the BLS. But those who still need help have to go somewhere.

“If they need to have rehab, they go to a nursing home or they go home and do physical therapy,” Payne says.

Of course, some elderly patients prefer not to live out their final days in a hospital and prefer to home or to a hospice instead. In fact, Forbes reports that fewer patients over age 65 are dying in hospitals these days—so more home health aides and hospice workers are needed.

Hospitals are obviously busy places, but if you’d prefer a different environment, know that RNs are needed in many other medical facilities, too.

3. Nurses are retiring

What if the U.S. suddenly lost 50 percent of its nursing staff? It’s happening, but slowly—the American Nurses Association reports that more than 50 percent of nurses are close to retirement age. They’ll need replacements.

“Nurses are starting to retire and we need nurses from a younger demographic,” Payne says. “A lot of us are aging out of the system, so that’s going to cause a lot of shortages.”

From a patient perspective, the thought of a nursing shortage is a scary prospect. But as a future nurse, vacated positions means good things for you—job opportunities!

4. RNs can do a variety of jobs

“Registered nurse” is an official title, but RNs can hold a variety of specific nursing jobs like nurse practitioner, travel nurse or clinical nurse. Being an RN is even a starting point to becoming a nurse educator, someone who hold a master’s degree or higher and helps train and mentor the next generation of nurses. Payne says this flexibility means more job security.

“Nurses have been given a lot more latitude in what we can do, in our credibility as educators and all the skills that we have make us a very broad health resource,” Payne says.

Final thoughts

So, what do you think of your RN career outlook now? It should seem pretty promising now that you have a concrete idea of what’s behind the BLS numbers. An aging population, jobs in hospitals and other facilities, retiring nurses and the variety of RN jobs should be a good indicator of future job security.

If you’re ready to take the leap and finally earn your professional nursing degree—which puts you on the track to being an RN after you pass the NCLX exam—check out the School of Nursing for more information.

Elizabeth Xu

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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