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Registered Nurses Job Outlook

Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur primarily because of technological advancements, permitting a greater number of health problems to be treated; an increased emphasis on preventive care; and the large, aging baby boomer population who will demand more healthcare services as they live longer and more active lives than previous generations. Faster than average growth is expected in traditional hospital settings, as well as in non-hospital settings, such as physician’s offices and home healthcare services.

Growth is expected to be much faster than average in outpatient care centers, where patients do not stay overnight, such as those that provide same-day chemotherapy, rehabilitation, and surgery. Also, an increased number of procedures, as well as more sophisticated procedures once done only in hospitals, are being done in physicians' offices.

The financial pressure on hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible should mean more people admitted to extended and long-term care facilities and more need for home healthcare. As the baby boomers grow older, there will be greater demand for home healthcare.

In addition, because many older people want to be treated at home or in residential care facilities, registered nurses will be in demand in those settings. Job growth is also expected in facilities that provide long-term rehabilitation for stroke and head injury patients, as well as facilities that treat people with Alzheimer's disease (memory loss, dementia).

Job Prospects

Overall, job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to be excellent. Employers in some parts of the country and in some employment settings report difficulty in attracting and keeping enough registered nurses.

Job opportunities should be excellent, even in hospitals, because of the relatively high turnover of hospital nurses. To attract and keep qualified nurses, hospitals may offer signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, or subsidized training.

In physicians' offices and outpatient care centers, registered nurses may face greater competition for positions because these jobs generally offer regular working hours and provide more comfortable working conditions than hospitals.

Generally, registered nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) will have better job prospects than those without one.

In addition, all four advanced practice registered nurses—clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners—will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition