A growing shortage of registered nurses (RN) is being recorded in many parts of the country in settings inside hospitals and beyond. The underlying concern is that an insufficient supply of nurses will limit the public's access to health care. Nursing school leaders, federal and state legislators, hospital administrators and consumer advocacy groups are working together to find solutions to the nursing shortage to ensure that health care delivery is not compromised in the foreseeable future.

How will a shortage of nurses impact new recruits to the profession and those wishing to advance in their careers?

A golden opportunity

There has never been a better time to become a nurse. Salaries are going up and working conditions are improving in an effort to appeal to new students and retain working RNs in the profession. Nurses are gaining more independence on the job, which enables them to use the full capacity of their education and expertise. Job security is also extremely high, given the fact that the projected supply of RNs will not come close to meeting the demand.

“The nursing shortage has amplified the critical role nurses play in our nation’s health care system.”

The media spotlight on the nursing shortage has also helped to showcase the many roles available within the profession. Though there is a great demand for nurses to provide direct care, nurses are also needed as researchers, health care administrators, policy analysts and nurse executives. The baccalaureate-prepared nurse enjoys the greatest opportunity for career advancement as well as the ability to move seamlessly into upper level roles requiring a master’s degree or doctorate.

A need for leaders

One of the greatest areas of need is for nursing school faculty. Nurse educators play a central role in preparing new nurses and adapting curriculum in response to changing technology and professional practices. The shortage of nurse faculty is hindering the efforts of nursing schools in many parts of the country to expand enrollments in response to the projected shortage.

The nursing shortage has amplified the critical role nurses play in our nation’s health care system. Nursing is a challenging, dynamic profession that brings many rewards and career advancement opportunities. With salaries climbing, working conditions improving and the demand for nursing services on the rise, it’s an exciting time to become a nurse.

For more information on nursing careers, continuing your education and sources of financial aid, visit http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/your-nursing-career.