(BPT) - Nursing continues to be one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation, as nurses make up the majority of the health care industry workforce. In fact, recent projections from a January 2014 report published in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook estimate the job growth to be 19 percent faster than the average occupation through 2022.
Besides a strong job market, a degree in nursing can be even more rewarding than you may think. A nurse usually has a flexible schedule and the option to work in a variety of establishments, from hospitals to schools, home care facilities and even government agencies. Few professions can provide the same number of options in terms of where to work, areas to specialize in, or degrees to use. The range of nursing specialties is almost as varied as the personalities of the nurses themselves. So no matter what kind of person you are, you’ll have a place in nursing.
However, the industry has changed over the years and this has led to a higher demand of registered nurses. Patient treatments have become more complicated, and with an increased workload, nurse positions require even more critical thinking skills.
Brenda McAllister, the national director of nursing of the Brown Mackie College system of schools, knows first-hand how the industry has changed. "I have watched the industry grow over the years as nurses become more involved than just taking vital signs, giving medications and bathing patients,” she says. “There is a more team-oriented approach which has developed in hospitals, and this naturally makes it a more rewarding career option. As a result, more and more nursing programs are in demand.”
Nurses must be able to work through problems that don't have a standard cookie-cutter solution. If a life-threatening problem occurs, the nurse must take action within their scope of practice to save a patient. Nurses must have the ability to think on their feet and assure patient safety.
On the other hand, nurses continue to go the extra mile to help their patients. Many people, especially the elderly, are reluctant to take medicine prescribed by a doctor other than their regular doctor. "Nurses will sometimes even call a patient's regular doctor to explain their current health care needs," McAllister says. "Usually a word from that trusted source will help the patient comply. It’s an additional step, but all the more rewarding when you help a patient out.”
In addition, there are a lot of things a nurse can do other than work at a hospital. In fact, not all aspects of nursing require physical, hands-on care. One employment option, which appeals to those who don't necessarily want to touch every patient physically, is to become a care manager or care coordinator. This position involves managing outpatient care to make sure needs are met and health is maintained when a patient leaves a medical facility.
The home health care coordinator's job is broadly based on patient education. Good health assessment skills and good nursing skills are necessary elements of care. These skills, plus teaching skills, continue to help keep the patient as independent as possible.
Another example would be a care coordinator's position at an insurance company, which is similar to one employed by a hospital. They work with an eye toward keeping treatment aspects in line with guidelines. A knowledge base is essential to perform the job. One must be able to be a manager, have a broad understanding of the body and a scientific background.
Even with attractive career options and expanding nursing programs, there is still a growing nursing shortage. Higher complexity of care, a growing geriatric population, expanding health and disease prevention services, and many other conditions regarding individual health demand more qualified nurses to fill an increasing variety of positions. So if this is a path you choose to follow, research your options and determine which fields and programs meet your needs to have a rewarding career in nursing.