Nursing degrees may give a leg up when job searching

For years the American healthcare system has been plagued by a shortage of nursing professionals, a problem that has only been exacerbated by the recent economic recession. Despite a growing need for healthcare professionals, the American Hospital Association has recently reported that nearly half of the facilities it surveyed have postponed expansions in both construction projects and staff members.

There are any number of causes for the crisis.

In a recent study published in the August 2009 issue of Health Affairs, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and his colleagues projected that the rapidly aging workforce will drive the nursing shortage to require 260,000 new registered nurses by 2025 - numbers that haven't been seen since the mid-1960s.

"Over the next 20 years, the average age of the RN will increase and the size of the workforce will plateau as large numbers of RNs retire. Because demand for RNs is expected to increase during this time, a large and prolonged shortage of nurses is expected to hit the U.S. in the latter half of the next decade," Buerhaus writes in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In addition to aging personnel, another factor contributing to the shortage is the lack of qualified faculty and training facilities currently facing several parts of the country like Texas, California and Florida.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Florida's colleges of nursing are turning away record numbers of qualified applicants - with some schools claiming to reject as much as half of their prospects - due to a dearth of training sites within their communities and an absence of nursing instructors in the public school system.

Divina Grossman of the Florida Association of Colleges of Nursing blames the "disparity in pay" between nurses in academics and those in the field, an imbalance that claims can amount to as much as half of a salary. "The economy has really affected us because people are not willing to move. We have been unable to fill positions for several years," echoes associate dean for academics and student affairs at the University of Florida's College of Nursing Karen Miles in an interview with the Democrat.

Is Continuing education the answer?

One way that prospective healthcare workers can better stand out to employers is by attaining a degree in nursing. In a response to frequently asked questions received from a Florida-based online university, the school claims that a Bachelors in Science in nursing open many doors for nursing students - citing the requirement of a BSN in high-demand fields like critical care, cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics and oncology.

The report also boasts about the benefits of an education received at an accredited online college, including conveniently flexible class schedules and the easy access to faculty through online chats and emails. With the coursework adapting to a student's unique schedule demands, online degree seekers can engage in full-time employment or internships while they study to advance their careers.

The report also cites a 2007 earnings survey from RN magazine which suggests that nurses with a BSN tend to earn more money than those without.

In a 2006 study of registered nursing, the Bureau of Labor statistics projected that overall job opportunities for RNs would be "excellent," even predicting a 23 percent growth in employment by 2016, basing these premonitions on continually advancing patient care technology, the increasing prominence of preventative medicine and a rapidly aging populace. The report forecast an increase of 587,000 new nursing jobs, not including the hundreds of thousands of positions that will open due to retirement or attrition.

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    Salary: $62,450
    Job Prospects: A+
    Education After HS: 2 years
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