The nursing job market overview


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Keeping up with job market news in the nursing field can quickly make you wish you had a career advisor to untangle the mixed messages—a tough job market, yet understaffing at hospitals and clinics; a looming shortage, yet potential students being turned away from schools.

Here, we throw the word “crisis” out the window and provide some quick, simple facts and projections about the job market today and tomorrow, along with answers to the questions you’ve been asking.

What will the job market look like in 10 years?
The need for both RNs and LPNs is expected to grow like never before—by 21 to 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. What is particularly interesting is that these jobs will be in various fields, not just in long-term care and geriatrics. As medical procedures advance, nurses are needed to care for patients who are recovering from previously fatal diseases and conditions.

How does the current shortage compare to ones in the past?

The last time the United States experienced a significant nursing shortage was in 1965. It’s predicted that in 2025, there will be a shortage that rivals that of the one in 1965. In fact, it’s estimated that we will be short twice the amount.

How is the nursing field faring in the recession compared to other job markets?
Healthcare facilities across the U.S., including hospitals, long-term care and clinics, added 21,000 jobs in November 2009. In that same month, 85,000 people in other fields lost their jobs.

Why can’t some new nurses find jobs?
Currently there is a job vacancy rate of more than 8 percent, and yet some nurses can’t find jobs. One reason may be that these nurses are new and inexperienced. Will the powers-that-be invest money into orienting them and accepting them into the fold? Seems the smart ones will, considering these nurses are going to be an essential part of the team 15 years from now!

Why are people being turned away from nursing school when there’s a significant shortage looming?
Almost 50,000 potential nurses were refused entry into BSN and graduate nursing programs in the 2008-09 academic year due to the lack of resources—instructors, space and clinical sites. If you’re a seasoned nurse, what this means is that if you’ve been harboring a secret desire to go into teaching, there’s no time like the present. Instructors are needed in the classrooms and in the clinical areas.

Can I still be a bedside nurse while teaching?
Some nurses work part-time as floor nurses and part-time as clinical instructors. These nurses get paid to help educate the next generation of nurses while maintaining the job they’ve always loved.

Why are some hospitals struggling with staffing problems?
The nurse staffing problem isn’t just the lack of new nurses, but the mobility of the new graduates. Apparently, 13 percent of new RNs change jobs after just one year and 37 percent would like to. Considering how much it costs to recruit nurses and to teach them the ropes, this could result in significant dings in the annual staffing budgets. According to a 2005 report, it costs almost $3,000 to hire a new nurse.

Why is it important to find the right job and stick with it when there are so many specialties to explore?
Above all else, it’s best for the patients. For example, good staffing increases a surgical patient’s chance of survival by 7 percent. There’s no better reason out there for nurses and administrators to work toward maintaining a good staff.

What can nurses do to help fill the ranks?
Don’t feel helpless—speak up. If you feel you would make a good teacher, don’t keep wondering if you should do it—do it! There are various ways to add to your education, from going to a traditional classroom to taking online courses. If you work in a hospital that doesn’t offer clinical space for nursing students, propose it. The more students we have out there, the better it will be for all of us.

Read these articles for more about the nursing job market outlook and nurse salaries:


Marijke Durning
Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.

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