Nurses throughout the US are seeing flat wages and a decreased availability in jobs in higher-paying states. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual wage increases for nurses increased only 1% between 2011 and 2012.
A few factors lie behind the wage stagnation and lack of desirable positions for nurses. The first is healthcare reform. The impact healthcare reform will have is unclear and many hospitals are hesitant to hire. Hospitals are being ultra-conservative when it comes to finances in the wake of decreasing Medicare reimbursements, according to the president of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment. Not only is this causing less job opportunities, but it’s also behind the trend in stagnant wages.
More supply and less demand for nurses is another reason. The amount of nursing school graduates has grown in the past decade, but the baby boomers in the field have yet to retire.
Despite the current trend, there’s reason to believe nurse staffing levels will increase in the near future. Here are a few reasons those in the nursing field should remain optimistic:
1. The Affordable Care Act
As more people obtain insurance and seek healthcare, the demand for nurses will rise.
2. Baby Boomers
As baby boomers grow older, they’ll need more care. Also, many baby boomers will be retiring from the nursing field making room for a new generation of nurses.
3. Nurse Staffing Ratio Laws
According to Aureus Medical Group, a nurse staffing company, 15 states have enacted legislation or adopted regulations to focus on nurse staffing levels. As states begin to mandate nurse-to-patient ratios, the number of nursing positions should increase.
Now is the time for nurses to take steps to set themselves apart from the competition. Nurses with specialized training in ORs, cardiovascular ICUs, pediatrics, etc. may see more career options. The ability to use electronic health record systems also gives nurses an advantage. Furthering education is another way to secure a job in nursing, especially since demand for nurse practitioners is likely to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn more than RNs with a 2012 median annual wage of $91,450. Nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists also earn significantly more. Nurses with associate’s degrees may want to consider a bachelor’s.
Flexibility is key to riding out the slow nursing hiring trend. Be willing to take on temporary nursing work. Remain open to the idea of relocation. Accept a job even if it isn’t your dream come true. The experience will be essential to landing your ideal position in the future.