With Demand for Nurses High, A Second Chance to Answer the Call

Summary: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the incredible impact of nurses across the globe, nationwide demand for nurses was high. Myriad factors play into this growing demand, including a wave of coming nurse retirements and a population that is living longer, often with one or more chronic conditions. While this presents challenges for our healthcare system, it also means opportunities for those looking to make a difference in a career that is much more than just a job.

Marquette Nurse working with manikin with text: why are nurses in such high demand?

Nurses consistently rank as America’s most trusted professionals, and for a good reason — whether you’re in for a routine check-up or an emergency hospitalization, nurses are there to provide compassionate care, to advocate and to educate. Yet, despite the crucial role nurses play, many areas around the country are facing a shortage of nurses — and solving the problem is easier said than done.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the demand for nurses and why the nursing shortage exists. We’ll also talk about whether nursing is a good career, the value of a master’s in nursing, nursing licensure compact states and how Marquette University is helping to address the nursing shortage with an innovative, second-degree MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

Why Is There a Nursing Shortage?

For years, experts in the healthcare field have sounded the alarm on the high demand for nurses nationwide. Based on projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the country will need additional 210,400 registered nurses (RNs) each year from now through 2028.

So why is it that in the United States — where RNs make good money, enjoy a level of employment stability unheard of in many industries and have a wealth of career choices, not to mention opportunities to further their careers — there aren’t enough nursing students to meet the demand?

Despite the fact that more students are enrolling in schools of nursing than ever, the number of qualified nursing school applicants far exceeds the number accepted into nursing programs — and that could be an understatement. According to recent research by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs could not accommodate more than 75,000 qualified applicants in 2018 in the United States alone. To think that the solution is simply to enroll more students, though, ignores the many challenges facing nursing schools. Understanding why this is requires a closer look at the current educational landscape.

Nursing Schools and the Nursing Shortage

There are many reasons universities across the country have not been able to turn out the number of nurses needed.

For one, many universities lack the resources necessary to accommodate the number of additional students needed to meet the demand. However, this is far from the only reason.

One issue that is especially difficult to solve is securing enough clinical partnerships to accommodate additional students — something the AACN says is a factor in nearly two-thirds of qualified student rejections. Compounding the issue is a nationwide shortage of nursing faculty.

However, some schools, such as Marquette University, are taking innovative approaches to provide nursing shortage solutions. But before we explore Marquette’s second-degree Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program in greater detail, it is important to recognize that an overall lack of sufficient nursing school enrollment capacity nationwide is far from the only factor contributing to the demand for nurses.

Chronic Health Issues and the Nursing Shortage

It is well known in the healthcare field that chronic conditions are on the rise in the United States. In fact, about one out of two Americans has at least one chronic disease, and nearly one in four have two or more chronic conditions. These include:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Oral diseases
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

As a result, more and more Americans require greater levels of care resulting in more visits to healthcare providers, clinics, ambulatory care settings and hospitals, as well as rising insurance costs. It’s also making it increasingly important that nurses possess a depth of knowledge about a broad scope of health-related science.

The Aging Population and the Nursing Shortage

Now the second-largest generation after millennials, baby boomers make up a sizable portion of the population, as well as account for much of the growing demand for healthcare services — about half of U.S. seniors have at least three or more chronic conditions.

The number of Americans 65 or older currently is around 52 million (as of 2018), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, as Americans are living longer than ever, with an average life expectancy of 78.6 years as of 2017, it’s expected that the number of Americans 65 or older will reach 95 million by 2060.

This presents the healthcare industry with many new challenges … and not just in regard to those requiring care. Not only must providers account for the needs of an aging population requiring ever-greater levels of care, they must do so in the face of a coming wave of nurse retirements. According to a 2018 survey, a little more than half of the RN workforce is 50 years old or older — making it critical that nursing schools produce enough new graduates to not only fill new positions, but also replace those moving into retirement.

Fortunately, Marquette University is helping to alleviate this nursing shortage. How? By providing non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders a path to their true calling while also allowing more students to enroll in our program through multiple yearly starts.

Going Back to School to Become a Nurse

Because of physical space constraints impacting a number of universities, along with a limited number of nurse educators stemming from the high demand for nurses in care settings, many traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs — now the most common path toward becoming an RN — typically offer just one start per year.

It’s for reasons such as these that many qualified students end up on lengthy nursing school waitlists, at which point some end up pursuing alternative majors.

The good news is: Whether you always wanted to be a nurse but for whatever reason chose a different path or only recently discovered nursing is your life’s calling, it is possible to get into nursing school (and graduate) sooner if you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. That is, if you meet the program requirements, including completing any outstanding prerequisite coursework.

Earn Your MSN in as Few as 21 Months through Marquette University

Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, is one such nursing program geared toward previous degree holders. Offering two starts a year at our Pleasant Prairie site, in January and August, as well as one start each May at our main campus in Milwaukee, this second-degree MSN program lets you use your previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn a master’s in nursing in as few as 21 months.

Is a Master’s in Nursing Worth It?

Though you may begin your career in the same entry-level position as a BSN-educated RN, a Master of Science in Nursing degree can afford many opportunities over time — like taking on a management, nurse educator or clinical role. Not only that, an MSN puts you a degree closer to many advance practice roles such as nurse practitioner (NP), nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife.

However, unlike Accelerated BSN programs, Marquette’s program allows you to enter the nursing profession a degree ahead of most entry-level nurses. And while you will still begin your RN career at the entry level, the additional education you receive will provide you a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing patients, providers and the healthcare industry overall. Not to mention the leadership skills a Marquette education will help you develop.

Our Direct Entry MSN program features a mix of online coursework with hands-on labs and in-person clinical rotations in a number of healthcare settings.

Online Coursework

Accessible through our online learning management platform, our online courses teach you the fundamentals of nursing theory and include online and print reading assignments, interactive activities and case studies, discussion forums, virtual review sessions and more.

Providing a variety of methods, tools and experiences benefits you as a learner, too. Not everyone learns the same. Learners who are more visual-spatial learn best by seeing 3D models and illustrations, pictures, videos and so forth. For an auditory learning, listening to audio of lung sounds or a video lesson may leave a more memorable impression. Still, some people learn best from reading while others learn best via tactical, hands-on engagement.

By designing our online coursework with these learning preferences in mind, we’re able to create an experience that is engaging and leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the material.

What's your learning path?

Find out how our online coursework offers convenience, while also providing a rigorous and comprehensive learning experience.

Skills and Simulation Labs

When you attend skills and simulation labs at our learning site in Pleasant Prairie, you’ll learn side-by-side with your peers. In skills lab, you will develop and master the evidence-based critical thinking and hands-on skills required of nurses using real-life patient care equipment and human patient simulators. Some of these skills include:

  • Administering medications
  • Checking vital signs
  • Conducting nursing assessments
  • Gaining familiarity with hospital equipment
  • Inserting IVs
  • Intubating patients
  • Practicing safe hygiene
  • Safely moving and transporting patients

Simulation lab builds on your skills lab experiences. There, in a realistic health care environment, you will collaborate with your classmates (or work individually) to will work through mock clinical scenarios using human patient simulators. Controlled by our faculty in another room, these high-tech manikins can talk — including providing incomplete medical information intended to test your clinical judgment and prepare you for real-life patient encounters — and simulate a variety of health conditions.

Practice like a professional

What Is Simulation Learning Like?
Take a closer look at the nursing simulation lab component of our Direct Entry MSN program.

Simulation lab doesn’t just prepare you for clinicals; it allows you to gain experience treating people who have clinical conditions you may not encounter during your nursing school clinicals. Nor does the learning stop when the simulation ends. Following each sim lab scenario, you and your classmates will debrief with your instructor. This allows everyone to learn from their mistakes, ask questions, work through complicated emotions and identify areas for improvement.

Clinical Rotations

Becoming a nurse also requires considerable experience in real-world clinical settings. Direct Entry MSN program students complete about 700 hours of in-patient clinical practice at a variety of providers in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

The role of clinical experiences is to learn to deliver care in clinical settings, and to integrate theory and evidence-based knowledge into practice and clinical care delivery.

The Marquette Clinical Experience Explained
From the first days to finding out what it means to be a Marquette nurse, we provide an in-depth look at the role of clinicals in your nursing education.

Earn Your Master of Science in Nursing in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Earlier, we said our location in Pleasant Prairie is integral in making it possible for our program to graduate more nurses. “But how?” you ask.

“It’s centrally located between Milwaukee and Chicago, so you kind of have the best of both worlds,” said Lisa, a 2019 Direct Entry MSN graduate who relocated from Alaska for the program.

Located about midway between our main campus and the Windy City, our Direct Entry MSN program is easy to get to, whether you live in nearby Racine or commute from either city or anywhere in between. Not only that, for those relocating to the area to earn their MSN, it provides both a quieter, more low-key setting to attend nursing school and a more affordable cost of living than the larger metro areas to the north and south.

However, Kenosha County is more than just a less-congested place to study nursing. Recall earlier how we noted that around two-thirds of nursing schools cite limited availability of nurse educators and clinical partnerships as key reasons for turning away perfectly qualified applications.

“I think the great thing about being in Pleasant Prairie is that it’s a small community, but yet it’s growing.”

Lisa, Marquette DE MSN Student

By expanding to a new area, as Marquette did with our Direct Entry MSN program satellite campus, it’s possible to tap into new clinical opportunities.

Thanks to our Pleasant Prairie location, we’re able to offer clinical rotations in a number of nearby communities, including:

  • Barrington, IL
  • Hinsdale, IL
  • Kenosha, WI
  • Lake Forest, IL
  • Libertyville, IL
  • Lindenhurst, IL
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Racine, WI
  • Waukesha, WI
  • Woodstock, IL
  • Zion, IL

Wisconsin Is a Nurse Licensure Compact State

There’s also another benefit to offering our second-degree MSN program in Marquette’s home state: Wisconsin is a nurse licensure compact state. That means that upon passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), residents of Wisconsin can apply for multi-state licensure that allows them to practice as an RN in any of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) states without obtaining an additional license. Currently, more than half of U.S. states participate in the NLC, with more states planning to enter in the coming years.

Interested in learning more about the unique clinical opportunities, stellar academic reputation and state-of-the-art learning lab experiences Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program has to offer? Fill out the form to have someone contact you, or read on to find out what makes nursing a good career.

Marquette students with instructor in simulation lab

Is Nursing a Good Career?

So far, we’ve laid out the reasons for America’s nursing shortage and explained how our Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie is helping to curb this shortage. However, you may still be on the fence about going back to school to become a nurse. After all, it is a big decision, involving sacrifices to your personal life, the cost of tuition and the time spent unable to work while in the program. (Because it is a major time commitment, we do not recommend working while going back to school to earn your MSN degree.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons to become a nurse — not the least of which is the profound difference you can make. Here are five reasons nursing is a great career:

1. Nurses Make a Difference Every Day

Few professions offer so many opportunities to touch lives. Whether helping a COVID patient Facetime with family for one last time, acting quick in response to someone coding, or helping a patient with low health literacy understand a diagnosis, nurses make a difference every day. It’s for this reason so many nurses see it not as a job but a calling. Truly, there are few careers that allow you to have such a profound effect on so many people.

Student journey from having a bachelor's in biology to a BSN degree.

Answering the Call:
Find out why Shelby used her bachelor’s in biology to become a Marquette nurse.

2. Nurses Have Many Opportunities for Career Growth

One of the greatest reasons to earn an MSN degree is that it places you a degree closer to a number of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles than were you to start your career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. So if, for example, your long-term goal is to become an NP and you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, starting your career with an MSN is a very smart move.

With just a few years of experience, it’s possible to become a charge nurse, assume a role in nurse leadership, join a hospital health committee or task force, or help inspire the next generation of nurses as a clinical nursing instructor.

“I really loved working in healthcare, I loved working with patients, but wanted more career opportunities and to be able to offer my patients more. Nursing was a perfect way to advance my career and give more to the patients.”

Allysa, a former exercise physiologist and 2019 Direct Entry MSN program graduate.

3. Nurses Are in High Demand

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on the U.S. healthcare system, it was facing significant challenges via an aging popular that is living with chronic conditions longer, placing considerable demands on the U.S. healthcare system — and that means more nurses. To be more specific, a little more than 200,000 new nurses will be needed each year over the course of the decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4. Nurses Have Scheduling Options

Healthcare is a 24/7/365 field, meaning nurses are needed for a variety of shifts, both full-time and part. In a hospital setting, you might work three 12-hour shifts a week, whereas in an outpatient clinic, your schedule may be closer to the standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. typical of many other professions. However, unlike many industries, in which it’s expected that professionals work 40 hours a week, RNs can easily find part-time jobs.

Additionally, some nurses can make supplementary income helping at clinics or staffing medical tents at large sporting events. In fact, RNs (especially who hold multi-state licenses) can also find short-term travel nursing jobs that not only pay well, but also allow them to gain a wealth of experiences while getting to travel.

5. Nurses Have Earning Potential

While money likely is not the driving force behind your decision to enter this life-changing profession, it’s good to know that nurses can earn a healthy living. According to the BLS, the nationwide median average salary for RNs in 2019 was $73,300 per year. However, keep in mind that the amount nurses earn is highly variable depends greatly on the state, local demand and cost of living, and level of experience, among other factors.

It’s clear that not just anyone can be a nurse. But if you have the compassion, the drive and the desire to make a difference, nursing could be your life’s calling.

Answer the Call; Become a Marquette Nurse

To learn more, contact us to talk to an admissions adviser about how you can use your non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree in as few as 21 months.

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