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Nursing Career Paths in a Growing Healthcare Industry

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Projections for healthcare jobs are above average for the next few years. If you have been contemplating a career in nursing or the healthcare field, or are looking to advance your current healthcare career, the time is right.
In 2012, experts predicted a nursing shortage, projecting about 1 million new nurse positions opening by 2020. Even with more than 3 million registered nurses currently employed growing, there will not be enough trained nurses to meet future demands. The reason is simple: the Baby Boomer population is aging, and 700,000 nurses are expected to retire by 2024. For those interested in a nursing or related career, however, this is a boon, providing open positions. Add to this that, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, nurses in 2012 made about $65,400 on average. The job market outlook for new nurses, or those looking to move, is highly favourable.

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RNs are not alone in enjoying a healthy career outlook. Nursing assistants will see about 600,000 openings, and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses combined equal more than 360,000 openings by 2020. Most positions on a career path starting with an RN will require an advanced degree, but with many millennials hoping for student loan debt reimbursement as part of accepting a new position, it may be worth your time to inquire about having tuition paid, especially if you are looking to advance within your current organization. With this in mind, let’s look at other healthcare positions, especially those for nurses looking for an upgrade, with openings and salaries perfect for any qualified jobseeker.

Nurse practitioner: Nearly a doctor

The most obvious career upgrade from an RN is the nurse practitioner, considered an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse position, with a salary median of about $100,000. This position carries additional responsibility to go with the salary. Duties can include performing physical examinations, running and analysing diagnostic tests such as lab work and x-rays, prescribing medication, and providing proper disease prevention, depending on state limitations. These are, of course, just some of the duties assigned to a nurse practitioner.

Compared to the typical RN, nurse practitioners have more autonomy, but are still part of an overall healthcare team. Nurse practitioners do not require supervision in 20 states; in all others, a physician is required to sign off on patient care choices. Because of this autonomy, nurse practitioners take on about 80 to 90 percent of a physician’s duties.
On top of already being an RN, nurse practitioners must have a master’s degree in an area of specialty. Both a state license and certification are required.

Midwife: delivering babies

Earning a median salary of $96,000 last year, the midwife is not far behind the nurse practitioner. Well-known for delivering babies and providing prenatal and postnatal care, the midwife also has a high level of autonomy. It is not uncommon for a midwife to work with outpatients or perform home births, though the majority can still be found in hospitals. Midwives can also provide whole-life care for women, including prescribing medication and contraception counselling, performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, and gynaecological care.

Projected job growth is 31 percent by 2022. The 2010 Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage to midwives, with reimbursement rates nearly equal to physicians, though this could change depending on new, proposed plans currently in the hands of lawmakers. The University of Cincinnati also points out the sharp rise of Caesarean births as another possible reason. A third of all births in 2012 were C-sections, from just 5 percent in 1965. Women want “maternity care that supports their own ability to give birth naturally,” the university found. With midwives delivering 1-in-8 vaginal births nationwide, and nearly a quarter of all births in the state of New Mexico, midwifes are likely to only keep growing.

Becoming a midwife requires a bachelor’s degree and certification from the American College of Nurse-Midwives. A Registered Nurse license may be accepted in lieu of a bachelor’s degree for acceptance to a midwife training program. Said program will also provide an accelerated path to obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, thus fulfilling the degree requirement for certification. Also highly recommended, given the scope of the position, is a year of clinical experience focusing on maternal/child nursing.

Nurse anaesthetist: administering anaesthesia

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The high earning potential, with an average salary of $158,000, for a nurse anaesthetist is tempered by a growth potential of 19 percent through 2024. While this is lower than other higher-education nursing options, it is still significant and higher than the average growth rate of any given job.

Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetists (CRNAs) can be found wherever anaesthesia is administered, working with surgeons, dentists, and anaesthesiologists. Their high salary is a result of high responsibility, nearly on par with an anaesthesiologist, with dosage calculations being the difference between a gentle sleep for surgeon and an overdose resulting in death.

For two-thirds of rural hospitals, CRNAs are the sole provider of anaesthesia. In some states, they are the only providers for rural hospitals due to lack anaesthesiologists in rural areas.

An RN looking to advance to a CRNA must complete at least one year of critical care experience and earn a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anaesthesia program.

Travel Nurse: Work across the Country

Traveling nurses have no requirements above and beyond the typical nurse, except possibly those of local or state laws, but offer the flexibility of traveling. This is not long-term employment, however, as contracts are usually for a set period of time. Your locale could change with the seasons, following warmer weather. For nurses with a sense of adventure and love of travel, this is the perfect opportunity to mesh hobby and career.
A traveling nurse’s pay is competitive with a typical nursing position, and can offer a stipend for housing. Projected job growth is 19 percent by 2022.

Infection Control Officer: Stopping the Spread of Disease

Lastly, something slightly different that will benefit from a career as a nurse. The infection control officer is known by a number of names, but is essentially works to ensure hospitals, emergency response personnel, and healthcare organizations comply with health regulations, in order to reduce the risk and spread of disease. This role focuses on epidemiology and public health, something an RN will be well-versed in.

By law, US emergency response employers must have a designated infection control officer, or DICO. As such, certification and training is required. While being a true epidemiologist is not required, the jobs are similar. A master’s degree, usually in public health, is usually required. A similar, lower-level job is the infection control nurse, which only requires a bachelor’s, but is not a management position. It may be a good middle step between an RN and the infection control officer, if you are considering this career path.

The median salary for an ICO is about $76,000. While growth rates for this specific title are unavailable, similar titles see about 6 percent growth rate by the early 2020s, or about the same as the national average for a given career.

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Between Advanced Practice Registered Nurse positions and analysing disease spread in hospitals and emergency personnel, growth is coming to the healthcare industry in the next few years. Nurses and healthcare personnel will be in high demand as the baby boomer generation transitions into the largest number of seniors the United States has seen, offering plenty of career advancement for above-average pay.

Author Bio:

A former professional journalist covering crime, court and fire stories, Cole spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and slowly writing a crime novel.

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