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Published on June 27, 2022

medical staff discussion at nurses station

Opportunities Keep Growing and Expanding in the Nursing Profession

More options than you can imagine – that’s the reality of the 2020s for those who earn degrees in nursing.

The career possibilities for nurses – not just in clinical health care settings – just keep expanding and evolving.

“It truly is endless. In my 37 years as a nurse, it has ballooned," said Tammy Anderson, RN, Avera Director of Talent Acquisition. “I’m a good example – I would not have thought an HR team would hire a nurse."

She said it makes sense: nurses know how to recruit nurses.

"It’s only one facet of the many things nurses do," she added. 

Anderson draws on some facts that help shape the picture of the nursing profession in the upper Midwest:

  • Right now, about 55% of nurses in the U.S. are 50 and older; more than 1 million registered nurses (RNs) are predicted to reach retirement age in the next 10-15 years.
  • Almost a quarter of Avera’s registered nurses are 50 or older.
  • In 2020 alone, 948 South Dakota graduates earned nursing degrees, and 636 of them took nursing job in the state.

“As baby-boomer nurses retire, studies show there will not be enough nurses to cover all the openings,” said Anderson. “The numbers are stark: by 2030 we’ll need almost 14,000 nurses in South Dakota.”

Anderson said when the many fields beyond the clinical settings are considered, the need for RNs is even more significant. There’s an existing shortfall of almost 2,000 nurses.

"Nursing is not an easy career, but it does offer a nearly infinite variety of jobs, roles and duties," Anderson added.

Nursing Within the Profession

The traditional “bedside” nurse is a vital part of health care, and while RNs complete their studies, they witness the many roles that may strike their passion for the field.

“Patient care and clinical rotations help nursing students experience many specialties within our profession," Anderson said. "In most cases, time on the floor may shape their future direction.

Like physicians during their training, nurses take part in long-term care, at-home care, pediatrics, orthopedics, oncology – almost every specialty. Among these traditional roles are other specializations. Leadership is another option – numerous Avera administrators and senior leaders are RNs.

“Some nurses gravitate toward the nurse practitioner track,” Anderson said. “Others might seek out the family-like setting that comes with long-term care.”

In addition, some nurses find other options in health care, such as home care. Many RNs provide vital nursing care for patients who are living in their homes. Anderson said long-term care nursing, along with behavioral health, are two clinical facets of the profession continuing to grow rapidly. Both are in high demand.

Some RNs spend decades in a department and don’t seek management or other specialties. “We rejoice in them,” she added. “They are great nurses with so much experience.”

Nursing Away from the Bedside

Nurses are more than caregivers who make the hour-by-hour patient care happen. Some work in education, telemedicine or on teams well-removed from the bedside.

“We have many tech-savvy Avera RNs who guide our grown telemedicine services,” Anderson said. “We also have IT nurses. They lend the clinical expertise to our information technology teams, so they're always patient-centered and effective.”

She said still other RNs bring their acumen to Avera’s legal services team.

The unique perspective of a nurse is valuable for these teams because it’s shaped by the experiences that come with front-line care. The value is such that Avera has created a number of programs to get students considering options in nursing.

With paid internships, a student can shadow a nurse in a chosen specialty such as critical care or medical/surgical, and spend 10 weeks dedicated to a single RN,” Anderson said.

“That way they know exactly what they might want to do. As a nation, we're already feeling the intensity of the nursing shortage – almost everywhere. That’s why we’re making every effort to train, recruit and retain these critical members of our team,” she said.

Explore a Nursing Career at Avera

If you’re interested in a hospital, clinic or long-term care nursing career, Avera offers a diverse selection of positions in more than 100 communities across the five-state region of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Learn more about nursing opportunities at Avera.

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