Alternative Career Opportunities for Nurses

Although the demand for nurses in hospitals and clinics is high, the vacancies are still not being filled. Some nursing graduates may relish the various opportunities at their fingertips and choose not to pursue a job in a hospital or clinic. Instead, they may choose to branch out and explore other avenues in the field of nursing.

For some nurses, working in a hospital every day is not an appealing job option. They do not wish to be stretched thin caring for more patients than they can safely handle. Or perhaps they do not feel that working in a certain branch of the hospital is what they desire to do. Some nurses cannot tolerate the stress, for example, of working in the acute care unit of a hospital or clinic. They may choose to investigate another nursing job opportunity, instead.

Alternatives for Nursing Graduates

There are several avenues that nursing graduates can explore. They do not have to be employed at a hospital in order to enjoy job security or interesting work. Many nurses choose to pursue home healthcare, in which they travel to patients’ homes and provide healthcare directly to them. This is a great option for nurses who want to work independently, and home healthcare can often be an interesting and rewarding job. Other nurses find their niche in public healthcare working in schools, government facilities, or public health clinics. These nurses enjoy working with a different sector of the public every day, from children to senior citizens.

Another interesting opportunity for nurses is the position of occupational health nurse. These nurses work onsite at a job to provide healthcare or initial emergency treatment to workers in a certain industry. They may also fill out accident reports and file the healthcare paperwork for these employees. Still other nurses have the lofty goal of being nurse supervisor or choosing to pursue becoming a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are qualified to diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries.

Whichever avenue nurses choose, plenty of job opportunities abound. Though the shortage will continue to increase, the job outlook itself is bright.

Trends in the Nursing Shortage

There are two contrasting trends in the nursing shortage that are worth taking into consideration, whether you are a would-be nurse or an administrator attempting to alleviate the nursing shortage. These contrasting trends may hold the key to the future of the nursing shortage and what nurses and hospital administrators alike can expect in the coming years.

The nursing shortage, unfortunately, only appears to be growing. Veteran nurses are retiring, and other nurses currently in the field are likely to retire or switch jobs due to burn out from being stretched too thin. Nursing schools and programs lack money and space to teach new applicants. Not enough graduates are entering the field to keep up with the rate of nurse retirement. The future, in fact, seems dim for hospitals and clinics already lacking nurses. However, like any profession, nursing is experiencing a dip in prosperity and inevitably will begin to rise again. Ensuring a healthy outlook for the profession, though, will take work and dedication from both hospitals and administrators alike, as all will have to cooperate on influencing factors like the budget.

Some Trends Unlikely to Reverse Themselves

The positive aspect of the nursing shortage is that the job outlook itself for nurses is very bright. Although they may be faced with long hours, nurses who are accepted and graduate from a nursing school or program are almost guaranteed a position in a hospital, clinic, or other outlet. The same cannot be said for other avenues of employment. In today’s fluctuating economy, having the security of a job waiting can mean a world of difference to a program graduate. Up and coming nurses can enjoy the security of knowing there are several positions available for them and that they are in high demand as registered nurses.

While the shortage will continue to increase until addressed by all participating parties –nurses, hospitals, clinics, and the government—the future of the nursing graduate is looking bright. If more schools and programs could admit applicants, eventually the nursing graduates could begin to fill job vacancies across the board. Nursing graduates are in high demand and will continue to be so for years to come.

Addressing the Nursing Shortage

Addressing the nursing shortage is a difficult task. The shortage itself seems to be caused by a number of factors that all remain catch-22’s. Sorting through these factors is necessary in order to address the shortage, but how can the shortage begin to be alleviated? Creative staffing alone will not fill the void of nurses that remains, but there are other ways in which people are working to salvage the nursing profession in the United States.

When the factors behind the nursing shortage are thoroughly analyzed, it becomes apparent that in order to begin to fix the problem, one of the factors in this cycle needs to be stopped. The cycle is such that there are fewer nurses because many older nurses are retiring. However, there are fewer nursing graduates entering the field because of a lack of funding to nursing schools and programs. How can these younger nurses be expected to enter the field if their educational needs cannot be met? The most important way in which the nursing shortage can be addressed is through this avenue. In order for the shortage to begin to be alleviated, the lack of funding and space in these nursing programs needs to be evaluated. Because of these constraining factors, not enough applicants can be accepted and therefore graduate ready to enter the field –and the shortage continues to grow.

Creativity with Budgetary Resources

Many nursing agencies and other concerned groups are pushing for budget changes in their various states and even in the United States’ government. They hope these budget changes can address the issue of nursing programs’ lack of funding. In order to meet the rising demand for nurses, these schools must be able to operate to their fullest capacity, and the budget changes should reflect that.

Other ways the nursing shortage is being addressed are through recruiting programs. These nurse recruiters may work for an agency, or they may work for a specific hospital or clinic. These recruiters are responsible for rounding up qualified applicants for their vacant positions, which can be a difficult and demanding job as there are fewer nursing graduates. While they may use creative options like travel jobs to attract would-be nurses, hospitals and clinics across the country will continue to suffer from a shortage until the budget issues are addressed.

Nursing Hiring Through the Eyes of Healthcare Recruiters

Quite often on this site we talk about the healthcare employment landscape from the perspective of patient care and nursing shortage statistics. There are a lot of things that current and prospective nurses can do on their own to increase job satisfaction. Timely tips for avoiding burnout can be a lifesaver, but we also wanted to approach the topic of healthcare employment from the perspective of healthcare recruiters. We figured if we went out and got this perspective, it would invariably help illuminate the larger goals of the healthcare system for nurses who are looking to advance their careers.

After all, there is widespread recognition that the broader goal is to deliver high quality care services to patients and fair compensation to nurses and healthcare professionals. Even within the parameters of finite resources, there is an optimal allocation of resources and equities to deliver a high quality of care today’s patient and a sustainable system to ensure basic healthcare competencies for tomorrow’s patient. All that being said, here are three issues we identified by getting the following perspectives from healthcare recruiters.

Schedule Flexibility and Easy Commutes for Nurses and Families

Healthcare providers have to market their medical practice to nurses and doctors who provide care services, as well as the patients who receive this care. More than ever, today’s patient is looking for convenience and easy scheduling as much as anything, especially when it comes to basic health and family medicine services. This has led to new nursing positions at urgent care and retail health clinics. At the same time, hospitals and specialty care providers are merging into huge healthcare networks with increasing opportunities for nurses to work at multiple locations and/or transfer positions for added schedule flexibility and easier work commutes.

We talked with Greg Meadows, CEO at Rocky Mountain Urgent Care and Family Medicine. With six different urgent care centers in Denver and Boulder metro areas, Meadows discussed how expanding the business with new locations has helped reinforced the company’s healthcare mission. “We place a strong emphasis on local convenience and scheduling flexibility for patients and families. People can walk-in to our urgent care clinic or make an appointment with our family medicine practice. We also try to provide convenience and flexibility for our incredible staff, but one of the things you learn is that not all nurses and doctors are looking for the same thing. Some of our employees stick to one location. Other employees enjoy the ability to pick up extra shifts at our various clinic locations.”

Filling Positions with Mandated Training, Certifications, and Competencies

Time and time again, we talk to nurse managers who describe how they have the perfect person for the job, but they fail to meet certain training and certification requirements established by the medical community—or that particular health provider. Often, people have reached a place in their personal lives where they are unable or unwilling to go back to school or into a training certification program with a significant time commitment. Other times, the health provider simply can’t wait to fill the position. This is one caution about leaving nursing school too soon.

Nurses with advanced degrees aren’t just in greater demand. More demands are placed upon them. This is a direct consequence and filter-down effect of the growing shortage in doctors as well as nurses. This is something we learned at our time with the Nurse Journal: “Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants hold advanced degrees and provide direct patient care under the auspices of a physician. [Both] have gained a greater level of independence as a growing number of states have relaxed requirements related to physician collaboration and oversight.”

Recruitment vs. Incentivization Creates a Tricky Balance

The nursing shortage means that healthcare providers have to make considerable investments in staff recruitment efforts. For a healthcare network of even modest size, this can mean millions of dollars each year just getting potential hires to apply to nursing positions. That’s millions of dollars that doesn’t go into the pocketbooks of nurses and is one part of the systemic cost inflation the healthcare industry has been struggling with for decades.

It can be helpful to think of nursing jobs as the “product,” and then read up on the difference between product marketing and product management. In discussing the creative marketing work her firm has done for healthcare clients in the Hudson Valley area, Eve Ashworth of Ashworth Creative says, “We have these types of conversations with healthcare clients all the time. Balancing outreach and marketing with employee compensation and perks is often critical for the most effective recruitment strategies.”

Getting Inside the Head of Healthcare Recruiters

We hope these insights and interviews have provided some help to nurses in conducting a more successful job search and, ultimately, greater job satisfaction.

Travel Nursing Opportunities

The nursing shortage has opened up different opportunities for people seeking to enter the field of nursing. Although hospitals and clinics are suffering from the shortage, many nursing students are choosing to go a different route in the field of nursing once they become registered. One of the most exciting opportunities for nurses is that of travel nursing. This is a career path that many nurses may choose to embark upon for the variety it brings to the field.

Travel nursing is obviously different from working in the same hospital day in and day out. With travel nursing, qualified nurses are given assignments and travel to different cities and states across the United States to complete their assignments. Registered nurses will still work with patients in hospitals or clinics, but the assignments may range from working in a critical care unit to assisting with the birthing unit of the local hospital. Nursing organizations that send nurses on traveling assignments offer a competitive salary as well as benefits.

Travel Nursing for RN Degrees

Many registered nurses find travel nursing to be an exciting way to expand their careers and to add spice to their field. They can work in a hospital or clinic taking care of patients as they normally would while becoming acquainted with a different city or state during each assignment. Nurses who are flexible to travel can enjoy a long career of traveling to different locations and filling the available positions. They can travel to anywhere from Alaska to Colorado to New York and everywhere in between. Assignments can last anywhere from 13 to 52 weeks, although nurses can choose longer assignments if they wish.

Here are some statistics that provide insight into the world of travel nursing. Many people find this to be an exciting adventure as compared to working in the same hospital each day. With travel nursing, nurses can meet new people and care for different patients on each assignment while enjoying the sights and sounds of different environments. Travel nursing is certainly not for everyone, as some nurses may prefer the stability of working in a single location, but it can be a wonderful way for nurses to explore their field, especially in this time of shortage.

Temporary and Contract Nursing

The nursing shortage has affected job opportunities for nursing across the board. One direction in which would-be nurses can choose to go is that of a temporary or contract nursing position. This type of position has several benefits that appeal to many people wishing to enter the field of nursing; however, like any field of work, it has some drawbacks, as well.

The obvious benefit to investigating a temporary nursing staffing agency is that you do not have remain working at the hospital or clinic where you are placed. You can use a nurse staffing agency to be placed in temporary or contract positions that hospitals and clinics have available. Many of the openings are a result of the nursing shortage, which is caused in part by more seasoned nurses choosing to retire or to relocate. A temporary or contract nursing job will satisfy the facility’s need for nurses while garnering work for the nurses themselves. Much like a temporary staffing agency for other types of jobs, the temporary nurse staffing agency can place qualified registered nurses in open positions. The nurses may then have the benefit of choosing to remain in that job if possible or to relocate elsewhere.

Benefits for and Benefits of Temporary Contract Nurses

Temporary or contract nursing has the added benefit of being more flexible than accepting a full-time permanent position at a clinic or hospital. This can be a bonus to nurses who may wish to eventually pursue a different branch of nursing. However, the benefit of contract nursing to many people can also be a drawback. Even if the nurses perform well in their temporary positions and enjoy their jobs, there is still no guarantee that the nurses can remain in that particular environment.

For people who need a job and thus had to investigate a temporary agency, this is not the kind of job security they were looking for. If there is some solace to be had, there is data to suggest that temporary contract nurses are a legitimate resource as much as a Band-Aid on a broken system. As long as the nursing shortage remains and fewer young nurses are entering the work force and older nurses retire, the need for temporary and contract nursing agencies will continue to grow and expand.

The Nursing Shortage and Nursing Opportunities

According to recent statistics, the average age of a registered nurse, or RN, was 44 years old in 1996. In fact, only about nine percent of registered nurses in the United States were under the age of 30 in 1996, the statistics estimate. The shortage created by the retirement of these more seasoned nurses has led to an increase in job opportunities for those wishing to become an RN.

While it is difficult for nursing programs and schools to accept all qualified applicants because of space and financial constraints, once a person is accepted into a nursing program, the outlook is bright. Many hospitals across the country are suffering from a nursing shortage and seek to hire qualified nursing professionals. Hospitals are seeing spots open as nurses leave because of retirement or increasingly high rates of job burn out. Unfortunately, until the nursing shortage is alleviated, many nurses may still choose to leave their current jobs after a few years because of job stress and frustration.

New Nursing Opportunities

The nursing shortage has created opportunities for registered nurses to practice outside of the hospital environment as well. As the medical community looks toward increased preventative care, nurses can find jobs in family clinics, schools, and outreach facilities. Many nurses even choose to work in the home. As the baby boomer population ages, more nurses may choose to provide their services at home, going to the patient instead of the patient coming to them. Many patients and nurses may prefer the home environment to the sometimes sterile and uninviting environment of the hospital. Another benefit of working in the home is that nurses can enjoy a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere versus the hectic and stressful atmosphere of a busy hospital or emergency ward.

It is beneficial to attend a program at a college or university and to weigh your options in deciding which way to branch out in the field of nursing. With such a dramatic shortage taking place and increasing every day, the job outlook for nurses—and thus the job opportunities—is growing faster than would-be nurses can keep up.

Nurse Training and the Shortage

One of the biggest contributing factors to the nursing shortage is a decreased number of graduates from qualified nursing programs. These nursing programs are necessary in order to produce registered nurses, or RNs, to provide quality patient care in hospitals and clinics. However, a lack of funding and resources to these programs means nurse training has become a sticky issue.

Education and Training Options

People interested in entering the field of nursing have several different options for how they can pursue their education. They can earn their nursing education as a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, or a diploma. The bachelor’s degree, which is usually called a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, is earned at a college or university. This type of degree usually takes about four years to complete. The associate degree of nursing, on the other hand, usually takes about two to three years to complete and is offered by community and junior colleges. There are a smaller number of hospital schools offering a nursing diploma, but these appear to be declining.

Progressive Nurse Training

Many nurses choose to earn their associate of nursing degree and to find a nursing staff position at a hospital or clinic. From there, they may take advantage of an opportunity to work as a nurse and then pursue a bachelor’s degree from a local college or university. Nurse training consists of classroom learning and supervised medical care instruction at clinics, hospitals, and laboratories. This training is vital to producing well qualified registered nurses. A registered nurse can choose to pursue any route of nursing, from home health care, to nursing the elderly, to working in the fast-paced critical care environment of a hospital.

These training programs are necessary to produce registered nurses, yet many qualified applicants are denied access to the school of their choice because the schools are not adequately funded. These potential students, who are eager to become nurses, are thus denied the opportunity to pursue a career in nursing. This lack of funding of nursing schools contributes, then, to the overall nursing shortage. Until this problem is addressed, the nursing shortage will continue despite the programs offered.

How Is the Shortage Affecting Patient Care?

The unfortunate reality of the nursing shortage is that it is a growing problem. The most difficult fact about the shortage is that because nursing programs can’t accept the number of students to meet the demand for more nurses, the nursing shortage is increasing dramatically each year. Because of the nursing staff shortage in hospitals, many seasoned nurses are working longer hours and becoming weary of their jobs. They are caring for more patients than they would if the hospital had an adequate supply of nurses, and patient healthcare is beginning to suffer.

Statistics for Nursing Shortages and Patient Care

Statistics show that just with surgical patients, hospitals with higher percentages of qualified nurses have higher surgical survival rates. In fact, these statistics reveal that a 10 percent increase in the level of qualified registered nurses, or RNs, reduced the risk of patient death by as much as five percent. This is just one example of the impact nurses have on patient healthcare.

It is also believed that the majority of medical errors made in hospitals and clinics are a result of the nursing shortage. One startling statistic says that each additional surgical patient in a nurse’s common workload increased that patient’s risk of death by approximately seven percent. This frightening figure demonstrates the negative effect that the nursing shortage is having on patient healthcare. The nursing shortage is resulting in an increased risk of patient deaths because there are simply not enough nurses present to safely care for all the patients. Many complications or medical errors could be prevented by an increased staff of nurses.

One estimate shows that in 24 percent of death and injury resulting to hospital patients, a low nursing staff in the particular hospital played a role. These are eye-opening statistics that should be examined to determine the overall impact on patient care. The impact is obvious: a shortage of nurses means a shortage of quality health care. These facts and figures should be taken into consideration in order to provide a basis for combating the problem of a nursing shortage, such as increasing funds to nursing programs or encouraging better working hours.

A View into the World of Nursing

It is easy to look at the numbers and see the reasoning behind the nursing shortage. A lack of funding of nursing programs is resulting in thousands of qualified applicants being rejected from nursing programs each year. However, another reason for the nursing shortage is one not as commonly reported through statistics: job burn out. While nursing has its rewards and benefits, it is of course a stressful career which many people find themselves to be burned out on before many years have passed.

Burn Out in the Nursing Profession

Part of the reason why nurses experience job burn out is the shortage itself. With fewer nurses entering the work force, hospitals and clinics are forced to keep their existing nurses on the floor for longer than they normally would work. These nurses become frustrated and exhausted when having to care for a larger group of patients because of the lack of nurses available. This frustration and exhaustion can lead to job dissatisfaction which can greatly influence a nurse’s work environment. Nursing shortages and turnover rates have been reported to be the highest in critical care facilities, in which nurses are worked for long hours and have to care for more patients then they feel they can safely care for.

Demands and Rewards for Nurses

It is not unusual for nurses to work 12-hour plus shifts for upwards of three days in a row. Although they receive some time off during the week, those long shifts can take their toll on the mental and emotional health of the nurse. They may find it difficult to complete other activities and to meet responsibilities outside of work because of the burn out they experience because of their highly stressful jobs. One study reported that approximately one out of every three hospital nurses under the age of 30 said they plan to leave their position within the current year. This is a dramatic number when the impact of the nursing shortage is taken into consideration.

The world of nursing does have its rewards. Nurses often make the biggest impact on patients and provide the majority of the patient care. However, a stressful work environment caused by the nursing shortage is only making the shortage itself worse.