Nursing is a popular field right now – and for very good reasons. But for all of the people who are looking to get into nursing, there is a finite number of schools equipped to produce them. As such, the demand for nursing school seats is far outweighing the number of slots available. This leads to more difficult entry standards, long waiting lists, and even higher costs. For a number of young (and not so young) men and women who would love to get in the health care field and reap both the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of becoming a nurse, doing so has never been so difficult.
We can start by examining why there is such a large demand. Nursing is certainly not a new profession. However, a series of events have banded together in a bit of a perfect storm to make this one of the top careers of the early twenty-first century. First, we have a large number of people in need of their services. As the baby boomers are entering retirement age, many are in significant need of health care – with many more that are going to need it in the not so distant future. Nurses are needed. The nursing shortage has been well documented by the media. A second factor is the state of the current economy. Unemployment rates are at a generational high, and hope for a nearby economic recovery is iffy, varying from circle to circle and political viewpoint to political viewpoint. Combine this with healthcare being widely viewed as a downturn proof economy (not completely true, but definitely resistant) and nursing offers an opportunity to many people who are worried of entering a workforce in flux. In fact, many middle aged individuals who have been laid off from their first career are actually trying to go to nursing school and re-enter the workforce in that field. Third, Nurses are paid pretty well. Now, a very solid argument can be made that they are still underpaid, especially when their salaries are compared to doctors – who are often removed from the patients day-to-day care – but the average nursing salary is still between $ 45,000 and $ 65,000. But this is still well above the average overall American salary, which lies between $ 31,000 and $ 42,000. So while it might not always be as much as they deserve, the average nurse has a level on income and job security that beats a sharp stick in the eye, especially when so many people are out of work altogether.
But the fact of the matter is that nursing schools simply cannot handle the demand. They are completely overwhelmed with the number of applicants, leading to wait lists for even qualified candidates stretching into years. Prospective students are left with tough decisions as to where to go, how much to pay, and how quickly they are able to get in. Alternative options are few and far between. Some foreign schools operate on a US curriculum and are easier to get into – such as the American University of Antigua in the Caribbean. There are pluses and minuses to taking an option like this, it just depends on what the individual is looking for.
Regardless, when a shortage of nurses exists (and it does) as well as a demand exists for qualified individuals who want to become nurses (and it does), we – as a society – need to do what we can to make sure that these economic functions are able to meet. When there is a supply and a demand, yet the curves never cross – that is a major problem.
by Felix Chesterfield
For more information on Nursing Schools, please visit: RN Schools