Median annual wage (2018): $71,730/year or $34.48/hour
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Work experience in a related occupation: None
Job growth through 2026: 15 percent (much faster than average growth)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
What do Registered Nurses do?
Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Registered nurses have always been the lifeblood of patient care. As technological advances, comprehensive health insurance coverage and a greater focus on preventative treatments contribute to longer lifespans, the need for RNs will only increase.
Regardless of setting—hospital, clinic, in home, educational institution or assisted living facility—the job growth for the nursing profession is expected to add 438,100 new positions through 2026. For the 4.8 million nurses in the U.S., this is great news in terms of employment and job security.
For the rest of us, it’s still not enough to meet the healthcare demand.
Labor Demand: Nursing Pros
RNs are one of the top 10 hardest positions to fill, mostly because meeting the never-ending demand for their skills is like trying to cool off a volcano with a bucket of ice. The gap is already so large, it would take an incredibly high number of professionals entering the field—more than 200,000 annually—to fix the existing problem.
As of last year, the gap between the number of nurses working and the number needed was approximately 1.1 million. Today, there are more available jobs for nurses than any other profession—and the labor demand trend is expected to continue at least though 2022.
Reasons for the Labor Shortage
Because health and wellness impact every person, healthcare coverage, payment and treatment are some of the country’s greatest challenges. Adding to the mix is the intense need to ensure there are enough licensed and trained healthcare providers to effectively treat patients. Some of the drivers for the nursing labor shortage include:
• More people, more problems: By 2050, there will be 83.7 million people over the age of 65. Baby boomers who live to 2050 will be older than 85. As the population enjoys longer lifespans, we will need more healthcare assistance for more people over a greater number of years.
• Time to retire: By 2030, about a million RNs will retire, shrinking the already tight workforce.
• Fewer students: There are not enough students enrolled in nursing programs to fill the available jobs.
• Attrition: Nursing has a turnover rate between 8.8 percent and 37 percent, making retention difficult. On-the-job demands, stress, long hours and heavy workloads are negatively impacting job satisfaction and causing many to leave the field.
As with most healthcare professions, wages for nurses comprise a wide range. Between 2013 and 2017, salaries for RNs grew by 8.01 percent. The states with the highest nursing employment are California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.
RN employment also varies by industry, and the top five for the profession are government; state, local and private hospitals; ambulatory healthcare services; nursing and residential care facilities; and state, local and private educational services.
To recruiters or CEOs looking to fill nursing positions, the competitive labor market means RNs can be picky about where they work. While salary plays the top role in recruiting, market, location and culture are strong competitive differentiators. Finding the right talent requires consideration about how these factors impact job commitment and satisfaction—and both short- and long-term strategies should be implemented as the nursing shortage will continue to be a hurdle for years.