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Nursing industry is growing, flexible

May. 28, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The job of nurse anesthetist comes with many attractions. There’s a high level of responsibility, a challenging work environment and the chance to do good for others. There’s also the prospect of virtually assured employment.

“I saw that there was going to be job security. It would pretty much always be there,” said Navy Reserve Lt. j.g. Loren Gaitan.

Gaitan, 33, is working on her master’s degree at Florida International University in a full-time, 2½-year program. A former neonatal nurse, she is looking to the anesthetist specialty as a way to increase her skills and take on more responsibility.

It could be a lucrative move: Salary.com puts median annual pay at nearly $180,000.

Nurse anesthetist is one of several fast-growing nursing specialties. Thanks to changes in national health-care laws, a range of concentrations in the nursing field are rising to the fore. With new mandates requiring employers to insure their workers, the health-care system will see a flood of new patients, said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. “The opportunities across the nation will be just profound,” she said.

Job options

Any of these growing jobs could be an easy fit for a veteran with training as a military nurse:

Nurse practitioner: This person typically has a master’s degree as well as a certification from one of several national bodies. The practitioner may diagnose illnesses, examine patients and prescribe medication. “They are not just going to treat the symptom. They will say, ‘You need to diet. You need to exercise,’ where a physician might just give you a pill,” said Gerrit Salinas, director of the recruiting agency Snelling Medical Professionals. “A nurse practitioner can help people feel like they are more than just a number.” The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners puts the mean salary at $91,310.

Nurse informatics: With the rise of electronic medical records, the role of the informatics nurse has become increasingly significant. These workers don’t just convert paper into electronic records; they also must be well-versed in patient care, privacy issues and technology. They may work in medical settings but also in home health agencies, insurance companies and other entities involved in the management of digital records. The average salary is $98,702, according to the Health Informatics Forum.

Case management nursing: Here again, changes in health-care law are driving demand. As new care models evolve, providers will be expected to coordinate medical treatments in order to ensure efficient and effective care. That’s a big part of the case management job description. Case management nurses typically coordinate long-term treatment, especially for patients with chronic conditions. The average salary is $73,000, according to job site Indeed.com.

Geriatric nursing: Care for seniors is a fast-growing field as the nation’s aged population swells. Medical issues may include diabetes, respiratory problems, hypertension and other conditions. Geriatric nurses offer treatment, while also offering guidance to patients and families. The average salary for a geriatric nurse is $54,457, according to ExploreHealthCareers.com.

Home health nursing: As the name suggests, home health-care providers deliver services to those whose conditions allow them to stay at home but who still require ongoing medical attention. The field is growing fast, largely on account of the rapidly expanding population of older Americans. Salaries average around $40,000 but can vary widely by geography.

Go anywhere

There are numerous avenues into nursing, including specialized fields. The American Nurses Association, http://www.nursingworld.org/, offers guidance.

To support veterans in the field, the government’s Health Resources and Services Administration makes grants to colleges and universities with expedited curricula that help train vets for careers as physician assistants. The Veterans Affairs Department employs a range of nurses.

“We recognize this as an opportunity to support veterans who have served the nation, and as a chance to help fill some shortages in the health care area. It’s a win-win situation,” said Joan Wasserman, Advanced Nursing Education Branch chief for HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions.

Many schools offer programs of various lengths for those looking to get into the field. Advocates say it’s worth the effort.

“Nursing is one of the best careers you can get into because it is so flexible,” said Pat Harris, associate director of a program at Arizona State University Online that helps practicing nurses earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. “No matter what changes are in the wind in health care, you are going to be in a key position. Once you have that license to practice medicine, you can go anywhere.”

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