Need for nurses grows, as field has more jobs available than any other profession in coming years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The nursing shortage ended with the recession as more nurses delayed retirement or came back into the workforce and employers tightened hiring. Now, demand is up again. The American Nurses Association says there will be far more nursing jobs available through 2022 than in any other profession.

Every soon-to-be college graduate should be as fortunate as Robert Smallwood, Steven Matos and Anaya Kole.

"I got exactly what I wanted," Smallwood said.

"Right out of college," Matos said.

"This was definitely an interest, so I'm very fortunate I got this position," Kole added.

The new registered nurses are graduating next week from Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences, and already having jobs awaiting them in metro hospitals in specialties of their choosing.

"The outlook for nurses coming out is as bright as it's ever been," said Kathy Howell, chief nursing officer of Saint Luke's Health System.

Howell said the system has 150 openings for nurses. It's the same story for many other large hospital systems. Howell said area nursing schools have good numbers of graduates, but factors increasing demand include more nurses retiring in this post-recession era and more baby boomers needing health care.

"Lots of chronic illness that we're dealing with, and there's lots of opportunities for nurses to work in many, many other settings," she said.

Howell said it's vital to not only hire nurses but also retain them. Saint Luke's now has a mentoring program that pairs experienced nurses with new ones to help them handle the rigors of a high stakes, high stress field.

"We need to make sure that support is there so they can be long-term," she said.

"They're able to help you and kinda boost your confidence and get through that whole entire year, so I think that's definitely going to help," Kole said.

The graduates say if you care about people and giving care to people, then nursing is the career to pursue now. The ANA says employment growth is projected at 11 percent or more annually in every state through 2022.