We face a nursing shortage that will only get worse as Baby Boomers get older. The nursing population is also aging, contributing to the shortage as more experienced nurses retire.
A survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers found that the average age of registered nurses (RNs) in 2017 was 50, and there are clear indications of a gradually increasing number of RNs nearing retirement.
On the other end of the age scale, HealthStream shares figures from the American Nursing Association (ANA) indicating only 10% of registered nurses are younger than 30. This feeds directly into a shortage of nursing leaders and administrators. Meeting this growing need is vital to providing quality healthcare and producing favorable patient outcomes in the coming years.
Defining the Demand
While there is a scarcity of nurses overall, the demand for nurse leaders and administrators is more pronounced. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 18% increase in employment of medical and health services managers between 2018 and 2028. Compare this to their estimated 12% increase in employment of RNs or an 11% increase in employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) over the same period. The BLS reiterates that this demand may be attributed to aging Baby Boomers who remain more active as they get older.
Contributing factors include more than just an aging population. Nurse administrators in particular are needed to manage the proliferation of healthcare reform laws and their impact on healthcare providers. The passage of the Affordable Care Act, as well as some other changes in the economy, led to the creation of more than 300,000 administration jobs in 2012 alone.
Some states have a higher demand than others. In Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Texas, the aging population is growing at a higher rate than other states. These are among the top 10 states in overall population gain from 2018-2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina and Tennessee round out that list.
Advantages for Nurses
The need for nursing leaders and administrators is clear. Apart from a sense of service and duty that will drive many to fill these positions, there are other incentives for nurses to pursue this career opportunity, including improving their practice, reaching professional goals and increasing compensation.
In leadership positions, nurses are better able to advocate for needed reforms. Drawing upon their depth of clinical experience, nurse administrators are able to greatly improve quality of care and patient outcomes. The challenge of a leadership role can be fulfilling in itself, as nurse administrators take on significant responsibility in their healthcare organizations.
With greater demand comes higher compensation. The BLS reports that as recently as 2019, the median salary for medical and health services managers was $100,980 compared to RNs at $73,300 and LPNS/LVNs at $47,480.
Meeting the Demand
Nurses who have built a career on clinical experience become leaders. With many of them nearing retirement and a lack of nurses under 30, the pool of potential nurse leaders is shrinking. Considering their importance to patients and nurses alike, this scarcity needs to be addressed with the same level of concern accorded to the nursing shortage.
A concerted effort to produce more nurses as well as nursing leaders and administrators will help meet the anticipated demand. First, we must renew our commitment to meeting the demand for nurses, as they are the future leaders we will most certainly need. Next, we need to encourage nurses to further their education, which includes the pursuit of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration.
One of the top two online MSN in Nursing Administration programs can be found at Lamar University’s JoAnne Gay Dishman School of Nursing. Currently licensed RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 3.0 qualify to apply for this program, with no GRE or MAT required. This program promises to deepen the skills needed by nurse administrators, including clinical and research skills.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online MSN in Nursing Administration program.