It is widely documented that the healthcare revolution that began in the late 1990s led to many changes especially those related to fiscal restraint and cost containment in the healthcare sector. Most importantly, the twentieth century is referred to as an era of downsizing and organizational restructuring; factors which caused a rapid increase in the number of nurses followed by an almost simultaneous nursing shortage. Besides the nursing shortage, the current healthcare trends including the technological revolution, globalization of health care, commodization of health care and environmental issues impact the healthcare sector and a nursing profession in different ways (Vallano, 2008). However, considering the current job outlook and prospects for registered nurses (RNs) across the United States, it is apparent that the nursing profession is excellent and demand for is expected to continue growing in all aspects.
To become a registered nurse, one is expected to have either a diploma in any nursing program, a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), or an Associate degree in Nursing (ADN). Moreover, individuals holding degrees in other programs may become nurses by undertaking any of the available programs including a Master’s degree in Nursing or a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program. On the other hand, all nurses working in any US territory must be licensed following graduation by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Further, RNs can gain certification by becoming members of any professional association including ambulatory care, pediatrics, or gerontology. Despite the fact that certification is voluntary, all RNs holding one of the four advanced nursing practice roles must be certified. Additionally, RNs can advance from being staff nurses to other positions in management, advanced practice, nursing education, or healthcare business based on their experience, performance, and continuous education (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012; Turnock, 2012).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the median annual salary for RNs was estimated at $64,690 as of May 2010. This implies that the lowest 10% of RNs earned $44,190 or less and the top 10% of RNs made $95,130 or more in 2010. Moreover, the median annual wage for RNs working in the private sector was $66,650 in the same period. Most importantly, many employers in the United States offer RNs flexible work schedules, which entail working in both hospital and non-hospital settings. Many RNs work in general medical and surgical hospitals (both local and private), government agencies, educational facilities, physician offices, home healthcare service facilities, or nursing care facilities. Depending on the work environment, RNs have different work schedules. For instance, RNs who work in hospitals may have rotating shifts, which cover a 24-hour period. They may also work on public holidays and weekends; have night as well as part time shifts. Furthermore, most nurses are prone to back injuries because their work involves walking, standing, bending, and a lot of stretching (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012; Turnock, 2012).
Generally, to succeed as the registered nurse in the 21st century, one is expected to possess specific personal characteristics. First and foremost, nurses must possess excellent critical-thinking skills because their work involves evaluation of the state of patients, which requires high levels of accuracy and proper judgment. Second, nurses must be compassionate and patient because their work is sometimes stressful. Most importantly, nurses must be emotionally stable in order to cope with various job stresses related to human sufferings and emergencies. Lastly, it is important for nurses to possess excellent communication and organizational skills because they interact with many patients with multiple needs and language constraints (Vallano, 2008).
On the other hand, the prospects for growth in the nursing profession are generally excellent considering that the current healthcare trends generate many opportunities and challenges, which drive the current changes in the healthcare sector. Furthermore, the future of nursing is bright because the employment rates are expected to increase up to 26% in 2010-2020 compared to other professions. Therefore, in order to retain qualified and high-performing nurses, employers may be forced to offer better salaries, bonuses, and attractive work-schedules. Moreover, nurses with a BSN or higher qualifications are expected to have better job prospects in the future (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
In conclusion, it is apparent that the nursing profession is growing rapidly if compared to other professions due to the current nursing shortage and other healthcare issues. As a result, building a nursing career will be an excellent decision for those individuals looking for a long-term and satisfying career.