It’s September, and that means around the country, schools are welcoming first-year nursing students and greeting those who have returned. Most of us probably know someone headed down this career path.
Yet we probably also know a nurse who’s decided to call it a career before they thought they would, or who is changing jobs because they can no longer accept the status quo. As Modern Healthcare has reported, nurses say they are stressed, overworked, underpaid and invisible to their employers. Some, represented by unions and working without labor contracts, are going on strike. Others are conducting informational picketing outside hospitals to draw public attention to staffing levels, working conditions and patient-safety concerns.
In one respect, it doesn’t sound like the best time to want to join the nursing ranks. In another, it does.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be about 194,500 job openings for nurses each year to 2030, as nurses leave the profession for another or, in the case of baby boomers, move toward retirement.
States, hospital associations and individual health systems are undertaking efforts, separately and together, to attract more people to the industry. Connecticut, for example, launched a three-year, $35 million partnership with colleges and the state hospital association to increase the number of students pursuing nursing and behavioral health careers. BHSH System, the combined Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, has promised $20 million to Oakland University in Michigan to help with tuition assistance and school infrastructure needs. In Springfield, Illinois, Memorial Health is providing $6 million over 10 years to help Illinois State University open another location for nursing education. And CommonSpirit Health is readying the launch of what it says will be the nation’s largest nursing residency program.
Efforts are also underway to offer more educational opportunities to potential nurses from diverse backgrounds and provide financial assistance where needed.
These programs and partnerships are creative and forward-looking. They should attract newcomers who see a future for themselves in caring for others. But better treatment, opportunities and contracts for today’s nurses, who’ve been on the front lines of a pandemic that has taxed them day in and day out, would also be welcome.
They’ve earned it.