According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook through the year 2020 for Registered Nursing is a 26 percent growth, or 711,900 jobs that will need to be filled. That growth is faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the BLS.
Part of the reason for the expected growth is that an aging RN profession will begin to go into retirement. Add to that the aging population in the United States, and the predictably increasing medical needs that come with being older. So, fewer nurses but increased needs for nurses.
At a median annual income of $64,690 as of May 2010 as an incentive, there is and has been a definite surge of student candidates at nursing education programs throughout the nation, and throughout our region as well.
An associate's degree (offered at Catawba Valley Community College and other area community colleges) in nursing is one of a few pathways into the nursing profession. Others include acquiring a bachelor's degree in nursing from a four-year college (Lenoir-Rhyne University offers such a program locally); or a diploma from an approved nursing program, according to the BLS.
"We had over 500 applicants for our spring classes, out of which less than 200 were qualified," said Brenda Stepp, department head of the Associate Degree Nursing Program (ADN) at CVCC.
Brian Rhoney, 41, of Mountain View, has been in the ADN program since 2006. A 1990 graduate of St. Stephen's High, Rhoney attended a year at Western Carolina University before leaving school to work in his family's hosiery business.
"I was making good money, and the technical side of the business, using computers, was very exciting," said Rhoney.
The family sold the business and Rhoney kept working there -- before textiles took the economic hit. The family bought Subby's in Mountain View, and Rhoney began to manage the restaurant.
"The restaurant business is pretty volatile," he said, "It's up and down, and you can't count on it."
He began to look for another career pathway.
"I wanted to get into the medical field, and thought about radiology, but after I researched it I came to the conclusion it was too limited," he said.
So he began to look at nursing, and realized as a nurse he could work in any part of the country and make a good living. But, he had to go back to school.
"I not only had to take all of the math and science courses that are required to enter the nursing program, I had to get As in order to earn the credit necessary," he said.
Working full time, Rhoney was unable to go to class daily, and took night classes instead. What would have taken five semesters to complete on a full-time basis, took him seven instead to finish.
His wife, Brooke, worked two jobs in supporting her husband's efforts -- in addition to raising their five sons and keeping the home ship afloat.
"I have the best wife in the world. She should be getting this degree!" he said.
Rhoney will complete his associate nursing degree and graduate in May. As a result of his clinical work, which he had to do on Saturdays, Rhoney most enjoyed his rotation at Broughton Hospital, and thinks he will pursue psychiatric nursing as a result.
He is also glad to complete the first part of his plan (he wants to continue to get his BSN) partly because it models to his sons the value of education beyond high school.
"I want to be an example to them," he said.
In advising those considering going into a nursing degree program, Rhoney is quick to say the process is not an easy one. The demands include the academics of the process, clinical rotations, plus balancing one's life -- especially if you have family and work obligations.
"A support system -- family, wife, husband, children -- are very important to your being successful," said Rhoney.
Next week we will look further into what local area hospital needs are for RNs, as well as expectations for the future. We'll highlight the community colleges and their relationships with not only the hospitals, but with four-year nursing programs as well.
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