Healthcare is one of the leading job fields today, with about 2.6 million new positions expected to open up by 2030. But when you think of healthcare jobs, what do you think of? Although physicians and surgeons make up a large number of our healthcare professionals, nursing is actually the nation’s largest healthcare profession—and by a significant amount.
Here are some reasons why, along with some career options you might want to consider if you’re interested in becoming a nurse.
Nurses Outnumber Doctors Three to One
There are over three million nurses working in America today, and if you visit any hospital in the country, you’re likely to meet far more nurses than doctors. The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN) estimates that there are three times as many registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. as there are physicians. According to AACN, nurses are now the primary providers of patient care, and deliver most of the long-term care throughout the country.
As a comparison, there are roughly 3 million RNs working today, compared to about 727,000 physicians and surgeons.
Nurses Work in a Wide Range of Specialties
Many nurses in the country are RNs, who you might first think of when you imagine what a nurse does. They mostly work in hospitals, monitoring the health of their patients, working with doctors to create and administer treatment plans, and educating their patients about their health conditions.
But there are many other types of nurses, each with their own specialties and learning tracks. For example, there are also 688,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) working in America today. While some also work in hospitals, most LPNs and LVNs work in nursing and residential care facilities under the direction of doctors and RNs. They’re responsible for the daily duties at these care facilities: changing bandages, helping older patients bathe or dress, and providing basic comfort and assistance for their patients.
There are also advanced practice nurses, or APNs, who provide services in many specialties. Most clinical nurse specialists, midwives, and nurse anesthetists are APNs.
Among these, there are many specialties and career pathways to choose from. For example, addiction nurses work with patients who are overcoming substance abuses. Cardiovascular nurses help to treat patients who are overcoming heart surgery or are currently suffering from heart disease. Rehabilitation nurses support patients with chronic illnesses or are living with permanent or temporary disabilities. Nurses work in nearly every field of medicine under a number of roles and responsibilities. (Across all specialties, nurses start their education with a solid foundation in anatomy and biology. You can get a head start on your training with our Anatomy & Physiology I course.)
Nurse Job Duties Continue to Expand
So, what does a typical RN do? You might already know that at hospitals, they often record patient symptoms, take in medical histories, and observe the progress of their patients while they’re being treated. But they can also be responsible for much more, depending on their work environment and the type of patients they’re treating. Over the years, nurses have increasingly been called on to fill the gaps between new patient needs and the services different healthcare facilities provide.
Today, nurses are often responsible for setting up long-term plans for their patients’ care, performing diagnostic tests and analyzing the results, and teaching their patients about their illnesses and injuries. They also collaborate frequently with members of a healthcare team to create and update treatment plans for their patients. Like many other jobs in healthcare, nursing requires a diverse mix of medical knowledge, interpersonal skills, and technical abilities. (You can get a head start on learning the essentials with our Medical Terminology course.)
Nursing Job Outlook Will Grow in the Next Decade
There’s currently a large job pool for nurses in the U.S., but that number is expected to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for RNs should grow by 9 percent by 2030. And according to the National Library of Medicine, unemployment rates for nurses rarely exceed 1.5 percent, due to their constant high demand.
These trends aren’t expected to slow down, either. With a growing older population, demand for healthcare services is expected to increase over the years. For example, outpatient facilities are experiencing a lot of job growth because there are more services these facilities can provide without an overnight stay.
Nurses are in a great position to help fill these needs, and new graduates are joining one of the largest professional fields in the country—the American Nurses Association projects that more RN jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States.
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