Young people are deciding that they want to go into nursing in record numbers. There was a 62% increase in the number of nurses ages 23 to 26 entering the field between 2002 and 2009.
And there are waiting lists at many nursing schools full of more qualified and enthusiastic young applicants.
This article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points to federal support for nursing workforce development, nurse recruitment campaigns, and larger nursing education programs at colleges and universities as some of the reasons for the increase.
And of course the faltering economy has a place, as people turn to a profession that is known to weather economic storms well. This applies to recent trends of older people moving to nursing as a profession as well, it’s not just the young ones.
This new generation of nurses is bringing fresh skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to their jobs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked to three young nurses, and two of those interviews are excerpted below:
Stacey Sado, Atlanta Medical Center
When she was in high school, Stacey Sado worked as an athletic trainer for the football team and loved taping ankles and wrists. She took health science courses and knew that she wanted to be a nurse.
Sado, 25, a staff nurse in the elective surgery unit at Atlanta Medical Center, was accepted into Georgia State University’s nursing program during her second semester.
“It was a lot harder than I thought. Nursing covers so much information,” she said. “There’s so much memorization and so much critical thinking. It takes a special person to be a nurse.
“On our [nursing] boards, there are questions that say check all that apply. If you miss one, you miss the whole question. Now that I’m working, I understand why they do that.”
Sado graduated into a tough job market in 2009, and it took her a year to get hired into the post-trauma, medical/surgical floor at Atlanta Medical.
“It was one of the busiest floors. I don’t think I really knew what busy meant until I started nursing, but I loved it,” she said. “I’m a visual and hands-on learner, so learning on site with a supportive team has made a huge difference for me.”
When Sado was four months out of orientation, her charge nurse asked to speak with her. The rookie nurse thought she was in trouble.
“Instead, she told me what a great job I was doing and that she could see I had entered nursing for the right reasons,” Sado said. “She said I was organized and a quick learner.
“When she asked me to be part of a new unit that was aiming to give five-star quality care, I cried. It was so comforting to know that others noticed how hard I was trying to make good decisions.”
Sado, who served as president of the International Student Council in college, is a board member of the Philippine Nurses Association of Georgia.
She’s studying to become orthopedic nursing certified and is on a waiting list to work in the intensive care unit. Ultimately, Sado hopes to become a certified nurse anesthetist.
“In nursing, there is always a future goal because there are so many paths you can take. Every day you learn something new, so your eyes are always wide open,” she said.
With the baby boomers aging and living longer, nurses will face the challenge of serving more patients with quality, cost-effective care. Sado believes that nurses today have the education, skills, compassion and commitment to meet any challenge.
“I do enjoy taking care of patients,” she said. “It’s a calling.”
Lizzie Mullen, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
“Working in the pediatric emergency department at CHOA is my dream come true,” said Lizzie Mullen, 26, a staff nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
Nursing was a second career choice for the University of Virginia graduate. As a business consultant for McKinsey & Co. right out of college, Mullen saw the administrative side of health care for two years. On a trip to Tanzania, she toured hospitals dealing with the AIDs epidemic and was inspired by the impact the nurses were making there.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” Mullen said.
She enrolled in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and graduated in May 2011.
“I was chosen for an externship at Egleston Hospital the summer between my junior and senior years,” she said. “Before I started, I thought I wanted to work in pediatric emergency care. By the end of the summer they practically had to drag me out of the ED.”
Mullen continued to work as a technician before she graduated and was hired as a nurse in July 2011.
“CHOA has such a great new grad program and gives new nurses lots of training,” Mullen said.
She entered a year-long residency program, worked under a preceptor for her first four months and then went through a six-week emergency department boot camp to learn emergency and assessment skills.
“The people in my department have bent over backwards to help me,” she said.
Mullen likes the excitement of being an ER nurse.
“I love the fast-paced environment where every day is different,” she said. “No patient ever wants to be in an emergency room, but being with them in their time of crisis is an incredible honor. Besides, it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re surrounded by kids.”
The learning curve is steep. “I’ve learned more in my last few months than in all of nursing school,” she said.
One of Mullen’s most difficult lessons was learning that child abuse kills more children than car accidents. That know-ledge has sharpened her assessment skills.
“My first day calling DFACS [Department of Family and Children’s Services] was sobering but I knew I made a difference, and that’s why I wanted to be a nurse,” she said.
Mullen, who serves on the customer service and patient advocacy committee in her department, believes nurses have gained more respect in recent years because of their research and leadership skills. With advancing technology and nursing best practices based on scientific evidence, nurses are treating sicker patients and saving more lives.
Mullen has applied for training to become a trauma clinician — the point person for patient care in the emergency department.
“I believe nurses will play a bigger role in health care in the future,” she said. “I just feel incredibly lucky to be here.”