Opportunities Keep Growing and Expanding in the Nursing Profession
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Published on December 29, 2020

medical staff discussion at nurses station

Opportunities Keep Growing and Expanding in the Nursing Profession

More options than you can imagine – that’s the 2020 reality 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, and in just the 35 years since I became a nurse, it has ballooned past what I expected, 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. But it make so much sense to have nurses recruiting nurses. It’s only one facet of the many things nurses do.”

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

  • Around 1 million registered nurses are currently older than 50, meaning one-third of the current nursing workforce will reach retirement age in the next 10–15 years.
  • Almost a quarter of Avera’s registered nurses (RNs) are 50 or older.
  • Only 917 South Dakota graduates earned nursing degrees in 2018.
  • Estimates show about 30-50% of nursing applicants have only about one year of experience.

“As baby boomer nurses retire, studies show there will not be enough nurses to cover all the openings,” said Anderson. “The projected demand for nursing is stark: by 2030 we’ll need almost 14,000 nurses in South Dakota but only have 12,000. When you consider the many fields beyond the clinical setting where RNs are needed, it just makes the problem more significant.”

Nursing is not an easy career, but it does offer a nearly infinite variety.

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 will help nursing students experience the many specialties within our profession. In most cases, this time on the floor may shape the direction they take once they complete their boards,” Anderson said. “Much like physicians, in 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. Others might seek out the family-like setting that comes with long-term care, some who find other options as they work in health care and still others who provide vital nursing care for patients living in their homes,” said Anderson. “We also have RNs who spend decades in a department and don’t seek management or other specialties. We rejoice in them – they are great nurses with so much experience.”

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.

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 Avera eCARE® RNs who worked with the technology and then sought opportunities in that growing field of care,” Anderson said. “We also have nurses who work in IT, providing the clinical expertise needed to make sure our information technology is patient-centered and effective. Others might bring their acumen to our legal 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, the nursing shortage is already being felt. That’s why we’re making every effort to train, recruit and retain these critical members of our team,” she said. Learn more about nursing opportunities at Avera.

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