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The new year has dawned and you are looking ahead to the future. What does your career in healthcare hold? What room is there for advancement or change? Let’s take a look at nursing and career options.

As early as 2012, a nurse shortage was predicted. About 1 million new nurse positions will be open by 2020. There are currently more than 3 million registered nurses employed nationwide, and while the number is growing, it won’t be enough to meet future needs. The Baby Boomer generation is aging and retiring, and 700,000 nurses are expected to retire by 2024.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses in 2012 made about $65,400 on average. All of this means there will be a great demand for nurses in the next few years.

This is not limited to registered nurses.

There will be almost 600,000 nursing assistant openings, and more than 360,000 combined openings for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses by 2020. But what of advanced nursing careers for those already in the healthcare industry?

1. The Autonomous Nurse

The nurse practitioner is the first upgrade, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse position, with a median salary of just over $100,000. This means not only a higher salary but more responsibility. While state regulations vary, running and analyzing diagnostic tests, performing physical examinations, providing disease prevention information, and prescribing medication are some of the duties that a nurse practitioner may be asked to perform.

Because of the wide array of duties assigned to nurse practitioners, they often have more autonomy than a typical registered nurse while still usually part of a healthcare team. In 22 states (including Washington, DC), nurse practitioners do not require supervision. There are 17 states that only require a doctor’s sign off for prescriptions, while the remaining states require a sign off on all diagnosing and treatment choices. Overall, nurse practitioners can perform 80 to 90 percent of a physician’s duties.

To become a Nurse Practitioner, you must already be a registered nurse and will need a Master’s degree in an area of specialty. Both certification and a state license and are required.

2. Deliver Babies in-Hospital or in-Home

The midwife, known for delivering babies, also has a high level of autonomy like nurse practitioners. Though the majority of midwives are in hospitals, they can often be found working with outpatients or performing home births. The average salary of a Certified Nurse Midwife was $93,610 as of May 2012. While more commonly known for their prenatal care, midwives also assist in post-natal care and can provide whole-life care to women. Physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medication and contraception counseling, and gynecological care are all tasks midwives perform.

With growth projected at 31 percent by 2022, becoming a CNM (or a Certified Midwife, similar to a CNM but without an initial degree in nursing) is an excellent career option. Medicaid coverage was extended to midwives as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, with reimbursement rates nearly equal to physicians, though this could change.

Requirements for midwife certification, either CNM or CM, include a Bachelor’s Degree and certification from the American College of Nurse-Midwives. An RN license may be accepted instead of a Bachelor’s degree for training programs, which can also provide an accelerated path to a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. While not required, it is highly recommended you have a year of clinical experience with a focus on maternal/child nursing.

3. Traveling the Country

Traveling nurses have no requirements above and beyond the typical nurse, but offer the flexibility of traveling. Traveling nurses take contracts for limited time periods, rather than long-term employment. For half the year, for instance, you could be in California. When the seasons change, you could move to Florida. If you are a nurse with an adventurous spirit and love travel, this is the job for you.

Pay is competitive with a typical staff nursing position and can offer a stipend for housing in the healthcare industry.

4. Nurses and Anesthesia

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s) can be found anywhere anesthesia is administered, such as working with surgeons, dentists, and anesthesiologists. They have a high level of responsibility, resulting in a high salary.

With an average salary of $158,000 and the growth potential of 19 percent through 2024, a nurse anesthetist is a lucrative option. However, much like anesthesiologists, the job can be extremely stressful, require exacting measurements, and, depending on location, may have a high level of autonomy. In rural hospitals, where two-thirds of rural hospitals lack anesthesiologists and are only serviced by cRNAs.

Completing one year of critical care experience and a Master’s Degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program are the requirements for an RN to become a CRNA.

5. Be the Boss

The last option benefits from hands-on experience with patients but removes you from actual patient interaction. Directly responsible for setting policies in hospitals, healthcare administrators also oversee health systems, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, and more in both the public and private sectors.

They work everywhere from private practices to the federal government, shaping policies. They manage facilities, services, and programs while overseeing staff and developing budgets. They are in charge of handling relations with other organizations in the healthcare industry.

It is by no means an easy job, as healthcare administrators are regularly faced with ethical dilemmas, from balancing a budget while factoring in quality of care, to mitigating legal risks for their organization and more.

The job hinges on professionalism and leadership skills. Hands-on experience, such as being an RN, is highly advantageous for setting policies. While a large responsibility, the position can have a positive impact on both staff and patients.

Requirements for the job depend on the position in the hierarchy. While advancement opportunities may be limited, lower management positions only require a Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration or a closely related field. For higher levels of management, a Master’s degree or doctorate may be required, as well as experienced in the healthcare field. Experience in an administration position will also prove useful.

Administrators have a median salary of $94,500 and a growth rate of 17 percent through 2024, opening up a promising route for those looking to affect patients in a different way in the healthcare industry.

Whether your goal is to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and work with patients, or a manager in administration affecting policy, growth is coming to the healthcare industry. The Baby Boomer generation is creating an unprecedented number of senior citizens in the United States; nurses and healthcare professionals and will continue to be in high demand.


Written By
Cole is a former professional journalist, who covered crime, court and fire stories. He spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and slowly writing a crime novel. With a wide range of interests, from technology to DIY art projects, he writes about anything that holds his attention.

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