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An Antidote to the Nursing Shortage? Get a Nursing Degree!

The healthcare industry faces a nursing shortage that is predicted to last at least another five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau projects 1.1 million additional nurses will be needed to avoid a further shortage. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow 15 percent, faster than all other occupations, from 2016 through 2026.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Workforce and National Center for Health Workforce Analysis says the demand for registered nurses will grow by 46 percent, from 438,600 full-time employees in 2015 to 638,800 FTEs in 2030.

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), there will be more registered nurse jobs available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. So what is causing this shortage? The National Institutes of Health attributes it to several factors: lack of potential educators, nurse burnout, high turnover, inequitable distribution of the workforce, and an aging population.

The aging population exacerbates this need in specific industry segments, such as long-term care. Not only are qualified nurses retiring and leaving the workforce, as the Baby Boomers get older there will be an increase demand for acute-care nurses.

For healthcare recruiters, this trend poses a monumental challenge. For individuals, the shortage presents incredible opportunity. And for businesses with related products or services, the time is now to capitalize on this trend.

For those just starting their career, looking to change careers or considering a post-retirement career, nursing is a viable option. Not sure where to start? Many sites offer resources to help guide your career path.

If you're already a registered nurse, you can take advantage of the trend by earning an advanced degree. Your employer may offer partial or full tuition reimbursement, and an online RN-to-BSN program can offer the flexibility many nurses require due to varied shifts.

Due to the shortage, many healthcare facilities are forced to hire or promote under-qualified individuals. RNs who pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing improve their patient assessment skills, making them prime candidates for management roles. They also have the option of pursuing graduate studies.

Salaries are higher for nurses with a BSN degree. For an RN with a BSN, the starting salary is comparable to an RN with an associates degree in nursing (ADN). While an entry-level position may average $40,250 annually, the average annual pay for a RN with a BSN in $78,000, with the top 10 percent earning more than $96,320.

Once you've earned your degree, you'll need to fulfill annual continuing education (CE) requirements. As with the BSN degree, most of these courses can be completed online.

Not only can nursing be a financially rewarding career, it also is one in which you can make a positive impact on others' lives. Sure, the shift work can be rigorous, but you'll have to weigh the pros and cons to determine if a career in nursing is right for you.

Darcy Grabenstein is SmartLinx Content Marketing Manager.

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