Experts Foresee Surge in Demand for Nurses But Not Until Economy Rebounds

While most experts agree that pursuing a medical-related job is a wise career decision, there is still concern among many nursing graduates as well as others currently in the field, that jobs are harder to find than they once were. Currently, new nurses are finding it more difficult to land jobs, particularly in large metropolitan areas such as New York and California. Finding nursing jobs in rural areas is somewhat easier. For example, if you reside in an where the unemployment rate is exceptionally high, more people are apt to be delaying medical care, which is turn leads to job freezes and layoffs.

Another issue is that many workers who would normally be retiring are not doing so because they are may be fearful of losing money in this bad economy. There are also many who have moved from part-time into full-time positions. Others are either postponing retiring or taking on additional hours to help supplement a spouse who had been laid off.. So the normal turnover that hospitals normally see has slowed considerably, making new positions less available. Another factor from this economy is that people are putting off procedures because they have either lost healthcare benefits or can’t afford the deductible or copay, which in turn has helped contribute to a slowdown in hiring at many hospitals.

Although the recession has slowed healthcare job growth, the overall trend seems to remain upward. Government projections estimate that nationwide, overall healthcare employment will grow by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016. For example, a new report on California’s healthcare field, conducted by Beacon Economics and funded by a grant from the California Wellness Foundation, finds that California’s population will grow by 10.2 million people by 2030, and the number of its residents age 65 and older will more than double. The researchers estimate that the state will need to employ 1.2 million healthcare workers next year and 2 million workers in 2030. These numbers are indicative that throughout the nation, the healthcare industry will be resistant to recession because the demand for healthcare services will continue to rise. The U.S. population–now roughly 305 million–is expected to reach 373 million by 2030. The number of Americans 65 and older will double. One thing about healthcare is certain: aging baby boomers will continue to place greater demand on the nation’s healthcare infrastructure

Even though, many nurses may be delaying retirement during this downturn in the economy, once things turn around forecasters expect this group of potential retirees will open up a huge opportunity for new nursing graduates. For example, a survey detailed by the Michigan Center for Nursing found that 10 years ago, 14% of RN’s and 19% of LPN’s were age 55 or older. Now, 10 years later those stats have more than doubled with 31% for RN’s and 39% for LPN’s.

The same factors that involve nursing jobs also impact vacancies at nursing schools. A recent study conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) showed that the nurse faculty vacancy rate in 2009 was 6.6%, down from 7.6% in 2008. Many schools point to changes in faculty retirement patterns and hiring freezes at academic institutions as reasons for this easing of the staff shortage. The nursing schools also expect the number of nurse educators to reach a shortage when the economy rallies. Still, many nursing schools are turning away applicants, because they cannot fill the teaching positions.

Most experts agree however, that once the economy rallies, there will be a huge demand to fill nursing positions. The aging of the current workforce combined with the increasing need to attend to the baby boomer generation will certainly increase this demand. In addition, some speculate that health care reform will make access to care easier to many people who currently do not have adequate insurance. In fact, almost all economic forecasts peg healthcare as one of the top five most recession-proof industries (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job retention and growth).

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