By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor
Annual checkups and preventive care are important
for your overall health and well-being, so why not apply the same concept to
your nursing career? By taking a look at progress toward goals, job
satisfaction and potential for the future, nurses can keep their careers healthy
and headed in the right direction.
Andrea Higham, director of the Campaign for
Nursing’s Future at Johnson & Johnson, said education is one of the hottest
topics in nursing right now, with the need for advanced practice nurses and
educators fueling the conversation.
Although advanced practice means more work and
a greater investment in advanced education, the payoff may be well worth it.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse anesthetists, nurse
midwives and nurse practitioners, referred to as advanced practice registered
nurses (APRNs), earned a median annual salary of $90,930 in 2012, while
registered nurses (RNs) earned an average of $65,470 per year. Clinical nurse specialists, also considered
APRNs, are currently included in the BLS’s RN data.
“There are some specialties in which there is a huge demand right now, and that
would include any kind of advance practice nursing,” Higham said. She notes that
many experts in the nursing community feel strongly that nurse practitioners
are going to be primarily responsible for administering primary care in this
country as we move forward into the future.
“As we get baby boomers aging and having more
chronic conditions, and more people are added into the health care system, there
will be a greater need for advanced practice nurses,” she explained.
Many employers and nursing organizations now
offer scholarships and other reimbursements for nurses looking to continue
their education. If pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree is not in your
five-year plan, consider expanding your scope by taking online continuing education classes or getting certified in your specialty.
Has the demand for nurses diminished? What will
the future bring?
While there are no short answers to these
questions, Higham believes that the need for nurses with diversified skills is
only going to continue to grow as the health care environment becomes more and
more complex. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the United
States will face a shortage of 800,000 nurses by 2020.
“What I have been able to glean from the
nursing community is that there is still a desperate need for nurses—in some
areas more so than others,” she said. “If you are talking about direct patient
nursing or acute care nursing, the need is more visible in more of the rural
areas and in parts of the Midwest and South.”
Experienced staff nurses who are looking for a change may want to consider travel nursing. Taking your nursing career on the
road lets you decide when and where you want to work, and you can put your
skills to use where they are needed most. Benefits include travel reimbursements, free
or supplemented housing, excellent pay and professional opportunities in top
facilities around the country.
New skills gained from travel assignments can also position you
for bigger and better things later in your nursing career, and recruiters
report that travel nurses are currently in high demand.
Taking care of yourself so you can care for others should be a pillar of the
nursing profession, but oftentimes self-care takes a back seat in today’s 24/7
“Nursing is a very, very stressful job. You are dealing with patients at a very
critical time in their lives where they need you. Whether they are having a
baby and it is a happy time, or they are going into surgery, the patients need
nurses. They need your skills, education and compassion,” she said. “Nurses
need to realize the impact they are making in other people’s lives.”
Getting involved in mentorship programs can
help alleviate stress on the job, Higham explained. Adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise are
all keys to maintaining a healthy work–life balance. By nurturing your personal
life, you are sure to see gains in your professional life.
It’s not uncommon for nurses to suffer from
“bedside burnout” and switching practice settings or specialties can be a good
way to get some relief. In fact, Higham encourages nurses who are itching for a
change to consider areas they may not have originally thought to pursue in
their nursing careers.
“There’s also a greater need for nurses in areas such as school nursing,
visiting nurses, home health care and more,” she said.
Technology-focused nursing careers, including
science and informatics, are also poised for even more growth. The 2014 HIMSS Nursing Workforce Survey found
that the informatics field is experiencing tremendous growth. Seventy
percent of the survey respondents have titles that specify an informatics position,
which is double the percentage from the previous survey conducted in 2011.
“It's reassuring to see an increased interest
in the nursing profession,” Higham concluded. “It’s such an invaluable role and
we desperately need nurses. They really are the backbone of health care and
without them the health care system would be crippled.”
Start your job search with NursingJobs.com, and you could
be on your way to an exciting new career opportunity in no time!
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