Nursing profession leads workforce growth


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By Christine Barcia

Career opportunities in nursing are projected to explode in the next decade.

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“The Affordable Care Act will increase the need for advanced care nurses, especially outside of hospitals,” said Judith Schmidt, chief executive officer, New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Nurses, Schmidt said, have “new roles in the community.”

“There is job stability and many different career options within nursing. In addition to hospitals, nursing homes and medical practices, RNs (registered nurses) are working in schools, prisons and business. Our careers span from direct patient care to education to business,” said Jayne Edman, dean of the Health Sciences Institute, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft.

Seventy-five percent of Brookdale Community College nursing graduates are employed as registered nurses within nine months of graduation, Edman said.

Middlesex County College, Edison, also has a nursing program that puts students on track for careers in healthcare.

“I learned from Middlesex County College President Joann La Perla-Morales that the nursing program accepts 90 new students each fall semester. Nursing students who complete the program pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) at successful rates, typically between 85 percent to 92 percent,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald Rios.

Middlesex County College has successful articulations with Felician University, Rutherford, and Kean University, Union, that permit students to complete a bachelor of science in nursing on the Edison campus of Middlesex County College, according to Middlesex County College President Joann LaPerla-Morales.

The nursing program promotes success through educational excellence and graduates “nurses who are able to provide empathetic, evidence-based nursing care to diverse populations,” Rios said.

At Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School, East Brunswick, a 15-month day program trains students to become licensed practical nurses.

“We get students right out of high school, [students] starting second careers and aides who want to move up in their career,” said Rosemary Hoeler, nursing program coordinator and instructor at Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School.

Students may enroll in the program in either February or September, and 33 students are signed up for this year’s program starting in February, Hoeler said.

“Many licensed practical nurses go on to study for their registered nurse license, and others go on to work in home health care,” Hoeler said.

The nursing profession is expected to grow by 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than average for all occupations, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Trending forward to 2025, close to two million new registered nurses will enter the workforce, and an estimated one million registered nurses will leave the workforce. This net growth of new nurses will result in a national workforce of 3.849 million registered nurses by 2025,” said Janet Mahoney, dean and professor, Monmouth University Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, Long Branch.

This growth is also due to an increased emphasis on preventive care, the growth rate in chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, and the demand for healthcare services by the baby boom population, the BLS stated.

“There are enough applicants right now (in New Jersey) to fill open positions, but that can change in  five to six years if the economy improves and nurses who put off retirement due to the poor economy decide to retire now,” Schmidt said.

Edman said the “projected shortage” of nurses exists on both the state and national level.

There are a couple of ways an individual can become a nurse, Schmidt said.

Through a four-year college, a student can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and through community college, a student can earn an associate’s degree in nursing. Schmidt said there are waiting lists in New Jersey at several community college programs, but not for four-year college programs.

“Nursing programs continue to attract many students. Brookdale (Community College) has a one year to two-year wait list to begin clinical courses in nursing,” Edman said.

The supply and demand of registered nurses requires “ a close eye” to assure a balance in the future, Mahoney said.

“There are approximately 40 associate degree registered nurse and baccalaureate registered nurse degree granting institutions in the relatively small state of New Jersey, in addition to the numerous out-of-state programs and online programs that come into New Jersey to offer nursing degrees; all of which have an impact on the resources for clinical sites rotations and qualified nursing faculty in New Jersey,” Mahoney said.

In 2014, the median annual pay for a registered nurse in New Jersey was $72,000, which is eight percent higher that the national average, according to, an employment search engine.

“The profession is both highly rewarding intellectually and emotionally and offers a fairly high starting salary,” Edman said.

Individuals thinking about entering the nursing profession, Edman said, “should have a knowledge base and skill in science and math, excellent communication skills, ability to multitask and a large degree of emotional intelligence.”


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