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Misconceptions about nursing have contributed to misinformation about the profession in the media. Here are the real facts:
• Nursing is the nation’s largest health-care profession, with more than 2.9 million registered nurses nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 2.42 million, or 83.2 percent, are employed in nursing.
• Nursing students account for more than one-half (52 percent) of all health profession students in the United States.
• Registered Nurses compose one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce as a whole, and nursing is among the highest-paying large occupations. Nearly 59 percent of RNs worked in general medical and surgical hospitals where RN salaries averaged $58,550 per year. With 2.5 million nurses in the workforce in 2007, RNs composed the largest segment of professionals (28 percent) working in the health-care industry.
• Nurses compose the largest single component of hospital staff. They are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and they deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.
• Most health-care services involve some form of care by nurses. In 1980, 66 percent of all employed RNs worked in hospitals. By 2004, that number had declined to 56.2 percent as more health care moved to sites outside of hospitals and nurses increased their ranks in a wide range of other settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary-care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, outpatient surgicenters, nursing-school–operated nursing centers, insurance and managed care companies, schools, mental health agencies, hospices, the military, industry, nursing education, and health-care research.
• Though often working collaboratively, nursing does not “assist” medicine or other fields. Nursing operates independent of—not as an auxiliary to—medicine and other disciplines. Nurses’ roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems.
• With more than four times as many RNs in the United States as physicians, nursing delivers an extended array of health-care services. These services include primary and preventive care by advanced nurse practitioners in such areas as pediatrics, family health, women’s health, and gerontological care. Nursing’s scope also includes services by certified nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists, as well as care in cardiac, oncology, neonatal, neurological, and obstetric/gynecological nursing and other advanced clinical specialties.
• The primary pathway to professional nursing, as compared to technical-level practice, is the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degree. Registered nurses are prepared through a B.S.N. program, a three-year associate degree in nursing, or a three-year hospital training program, receiving a hospital diploma. All take the same state licensing exam. (The number of diploma programs has declined steadily, to less than 10 percent of all basic RN education programs, as nursing education has shifted from hospital-operated instruction into the college and university system.)
• To meet the more complex demands of today’s health-care environment, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice recommended that at least two thirds of the basic nurse workforce hold baccalaureate or higher degrees in nursing by 2010. Aware of the need, RNs are seeking the B.S.N. degree in increasing numbers. In 1980, almost 55 percent of employed registered nurses held a hospital diploma as their highest educational credential, 22 percent held a bachelor’s degree, and 18 percent an associate degree. By 2004, a diploma was the highest educational credential for only 17.5 percent of RNs, while the number with bachelor’s degrees had climbed to 34.2 percent (with 33.7 percent holding an associate degree as their top academic preparation). In 2005, 13,232 RNs with diplomas or associate degrees graduated from B.S.N. programs.
• In 2004, 13 percent of the nation’s registered nurses held either a master’s or doctoral degree as their highest educational credential. The current demand for master’s-prepared and doctorally prepared nurses for advanced practice, clinical specialties, teaching, and research roles far outstrips the supply.
• According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing is among the occupations with the greatest job growth from 2006–16. Other federal projections indicate that by 2020, the U.S. nursing shortage will expand to more than 800,000 registered nursing positions. Even as health care continues to shift beyond the hospital to more community-based primary care sites and other outpatient sites, federal projections say the rising complexity of acute care will cause demand for RNs in hospitals to climb by 36 percent by 2020.
Excerpted from Nursing Programs 2011 by Peterson's Copyright © 2010 by Peterson's. Excerpted by permission.
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