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Job and Wage Prospects for Nurses in the U.S. Are Looking Up

Feb 21, 2017

Market growth driven in part by the Affordable Care Act and a wave of retirement is shaking up the market for nurses in the U.S. after more than a decade of relative stability.

Older nurses are beginning to retire or scale back their working hours as the economy steadily shows positive signs after a rocky recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal reports. The uncertainty during that period had led many of them to hold on to their positions.

This coincides with increased demand for nurses as more people in the country fall under health insurance coverage, according to the Journal, both as result of job growth nationwide and in part because of provisions under Obamacare.

The U.S.'s largest private hospital operator, HCA Holdings (hca), tells the Journal it is "having a retirement wave," but didn't specify at which locations. Meanwhile, according to the Journal, leading medical staffing firm AMN Healthcare Services (ahs) has hired 79% more nurse recruiters than it did at the end of 2013, just to keep up with the market.

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This latest shakeup in the nurse market comes just as health care job openings with high career advancement opportunities are becoming more promising in 2017, and is more acutely felt in areas of staffing strain, according to the Journal. In regions where nurses are particularly in short supply, like Texas, Florida and California, signing bonuses of $10,000 or more are not unheard of. These bonuses are "back with a vengeance," Joanne Spetz, an economist and nursing professor at University of California San Francisco who has been tracking the state's nursing market, told the Journal.

Opinions differ as to whether incoming nursing graduates will be able to plug the shortfall. The Journal reports that while labor experts expect fresh graduates to cover gaps created by nurses retiring in the next decade, researchers looking to both demographic changes and graduation numbers worry the growing demand for nurses will simply be too much to cover.

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