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Focus On Nursing: A High Demand, High Growth Job of the Future

If you’re looking for a job of the future, then nursing is one of the strongest candidates out there. Although some aspects of the role may be susceptible to automation—in Japan scientists have developed a robot that can hand out medication and collect records—the central importance of empathy and advanced motor skills to nursing jobs makes it highly unlikely that machines will be replacing humans at our bedsides any time soon.

But that’s not all: According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report, by 2050, the number of U.S. residents aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million. As the population ages, there will be ever greater demand for healthcare professionals of all stripes, including nurses. And unlike many other fast growing “jobs of the future,” the doors of a nursing career are open to those without a college degree.

But there’s a flip side, one that’s all too familiar to employers. As demand for nurses rises, the supply of qualified candidates does not always keep up, with the result that the U.S. faces a nursing shortage. So what is to be done? To get a deeper insight into the situation, we spoke with Dr. Joyce Knestrick, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and an Associate Professor of Nursing at Georgetown University.

Nursing: A Career with Many Possibilities

What nursing jobseekers are clicking on

Although it’s a convenient shorthand to talk about “nursing,” the reality is that this is a rich and diverse field.

“That’s one thing I love about the nursing role—that there are so many different opportunities,” says Dr. Knestrick. “I think younger people aren’t necessarily aware of all of the opportunities within the field,” she adds.

Thus, while demand is high for registered nurse (RN) roles (projected to see an impressive 16% growth through 2024, according to the BLS) there are many possible specializations.

For instance, Dr. Knestrick cites roles in management, nursing administration and nurse practitioner roles (these are nurses with an advanced degree who combine clinical diagnostic and treatment expertise with an emphasis on illness prevention). Then there are pediatric, neonatal, psychiatric, mental specialists and women’s health nurse practitioners.

And this is not to mention the nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives or people working in nursing informatics, who combine health science, computer science and IT skills to manage large amounts of patient care data.  The possibilities—if not quite endless—are wide and varied.

nursing employment growth

“There’s a lot of room for advancement in the advanced practice roles, but I think even for the bedside nurses, there are opportunities. There are so many varieties that people can really find their niche in nursing as a career,” says Dr Knestrick, who points to her own background as an example.

She started her career practicing for a long-term nursing care facility with a primarily geriatric population. Then she worked in a large tertiary care hospital on a medical surgical unit, followed by a stint in critical care, before going on to to become a nurse manager in pediatric and medical surgical units, and then teaching in a diploma school of nursing. She has now been a nurse practitioner for 25 years.

Exploring the nursing shortage

Yet although nursing is a high demand, “future proof” field with lots of room for professional growth, the shortage remains a serious issue at present— and is likely to remain so in the future. Says Dr. Knestrick: “According to most of the information I’ve seen about registered nurses, I believe that we’re still going to see a shortage.”

And of course, a shortage of RNs will later translate into a shortage of nurses with more advanced qualifications.

average job growth

A big part of the problem is that while the aging population may be creating opportunities for healthcare professionals, today’s nursing workforce is also aging.

“The average age of a nurse is around 50,” says Dr. Knestrick. “It’s estimated that over 50% of nurses that are practicing are over the age of 50. This means that within 10 to 20 years they will be retiring from nursing, which will further add to the shortage.”

In fact, the Health Resources and Services Administration predicts more than one million registered nurses will reach retirement age within the next 10 to 15 years, leaving a significant number of jobs to be filled.

This represents not just nurses needing to be replaced, but also a significant loss of knowledge and expertise. As a result, not only do hospitals need to find lots of new nurses, but they need to facilitate the transfer of invaluable nursing wisdom before it is lost.

But here’s another problem: there is also a shortage of nursing teachers to prepare the next generation.

“In some cases, schools have turned down nursing applicants mostly because of the faculty shortage,” says Dr. Knestrick.

In fact, a Georgetown University study found that in the 2011—2012 school year alone, Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs rejected 37 percent of qualified applicants and associate degree programs rejected 51 percent of qualified applicants.

What is to be done?

In some states, there are already strategies in place to address the shortage of nurse educators. For instance, the Nurses for Wisconsin initiative provides fellowships and loan forgiveness for future nurse faculty who agree to teach in the state after graduation.

Meanwhile, some nursing schools have formed strategic partnerships to help boost student capacity. For instance, the University of Minnesota’s has partnered with the Minnesota VA Health Care System to expand enrollment in the schools Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program.

These programs could help with the teaching shortage. But what can employers do?

1) Stress the purpose and potential of a nursing career

In an age when many people are seeking meaningful work, one strategy for attracting new talent is to highlight the social value of nursing and the wide variety of available career paths to candidates.

“They should know that nursing is a wonderful profession,” says Dr. Knestrick, “that there are plenty of opportunities. There will always be sick people and they are always going to need somebody to provide hands-on care for them.”

2) Don’t overload nurses

Hospitals seeking cost efficiencies may be tempted to increase the workload on nurses—but this increases the risk of burnout and can make the existing talent shortage worse, says Dr. Knestrick.

A European study of acute care hospitals found that a greater proportion of professional nurses at the bedside is associated with better outcomes for both patients and nurses—thus reducing the risk of staff turnover. So it’s vital to look closely at staffing patterns, and staff accordingly.

3) Talent may be available in other areas

Another option is to recruit nurses from different parts of the country, as demand varies according to geographic areas, says Dr. Knestrick.

Some estimates even project nursing surpluses in some Midwestern states such as Illinois and Minnesota, while states such as California and Colorado will see nursing shortages.

With the correct incentives, it may be possible to target nurses in areas with a greater supply and recruit them to areas where demand is more difficult to meet.

4) Make it easier for nurses to acquire—and practice—advanced skills

Employers needing nurses with more advanced qualifications could help provide programs to help them get the masters or doctoral level qualifications needed to become nurse practitioners, says Dr. Knestrick. But there’s another important step, too. Currently many states place limitations even on nurses with very advanced skills, forbidding them to practice without another healthcare professional in place, thus limiting the extent of the care they can provide their patients.

Many of these rules were written decades ago, says Dr. Knestrick, and don’t reflect current conditions. She recommends that employers “support changes in nurse practice acts to remove barriers for nurses, particularly nurse practitioners, to practice to the full extent of their license and their education is essential.”

Of course, enacting these steps and won’t end the nurse shortage immediately, but they are good steps towards ensuring that we don’t run short of these important professionals.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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