The current year-long economic recession took its toll on the nursing profession just like it did in all the other sectors of the economy. The Class of 2009 graduates of nursing schools, for example, are a bit disappointed to realize that it is now harder to land a top-paying job in many parts of the country.
But all this overshadows two facts:
1) The lax market demand for nurses is due to a combination of unique and temporary factors and not because the overall demand for nurses has dropped.
2) The whole health care industry is set up for an explosion in demand for nurses. Those nurses who prepare themselves for the upturn will be the ones profiting handsomely from this sure-to-come development.
The two temporary factors that contributed to sagging demand are (a) the way senior registered nurses have postponed their retirement, and (b) those that worked part-time previously have gone full-time to compensate for the drop in household incomes.
The statistics support this trend. Today the average age of a working nurse in California is 47, with 45 percent over the age of 50, according to the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care. More than 10 percent of the registered nurses working for Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, for example, is over 60 years old.
What this means is very clear: as soon as the economy pulls itself together there will be a massive wave of retirements in the nursing community. Thousands of nurses who have postponed the decision will retire from the workforce in masse. That will suddenly create a huge demand for new nurses to fill in all those vacant positions.
There are two factors that would further exacerbate the need for more nurses in the near future.
The first is the retirement of the “Baby Boomers” who have reached their sixties.
The second factor is the Obama Administration’s serious push to expand health care to the 46 million Americans who do not have any health coverage right now.
Both more Boomer retirees and more Americans with medical coverage would mean an increase in health care demand and thus the need for more nurses. The future trend is very clear. The experienced RNs who earn $90,000 or more a year currently can expect to make even more in the future.
The nurse shortages will be acute especially in large states and urban regions. In California, for example, there are now 647 registered nurses for every 100,000 people but for the U.S. as a whole the name number is 825 registered nurses per 100,000. That gap will be widening when the recession is over.
Again, take Chicago. A report from the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council last year estimated that the Chicago area will need 3,000 new nurses a year through 2014, but it projected that only half that number will join the work force each year. That marks Chicago as a great metropolitan area to work for as a nurse once our current economic difficulties are over.
If you are a nurse or a nursing student the thing to do is not to sever your ties with the industry and get yourself ready for the demand upsurge ahead. And if you’re an employer it’d pay to keep your resume file fresh and updated so that when the demand for nurses skyrocket and nurses become scarce to find you’d be in a better position to interview and hire the best nurses available out there.
Good times are ahead, right around the corner. And the nurses will be the first ones to benefit from that certain turn of events.