Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system—all you have to do is look at the numbers to see their tremendous impact. Top nursing jobs are in high demand. There are more nurses than any other type of healthcare professional, including physicians. There are almost 4.2 million registered nurses in the United States, more than four times the number of physicians. Not only that but employment for RNs is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030. There are about 194,5000 openings for RNs projected each year due to the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations, retire, or otherwise leave the workforce.
Nurses are integral to providing quality care to patients and spend more time with them than physicians do. Not only that, but nurses took the top spot in a Gallup poll of the most honest and ethical professions for the 20th consecutive year. Gallup added nurses to the poll in 1999; since then, they were only displaced once by firefighters in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11. Nurses, as well as medical doctors and pharmacists, also saw a boost in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nurses have a broad skill set and a wide range of responsibilities, from recording medical history to administering medication to educating patients about disease management. The nursing field is one that is rife with opportunities at every level, and there are over 100 specialties to choose from, that’s why top nursing jobs are in high demand. Before choosing a nursing specialty, you should consider the type of population you want to serve and the kind of workplace environment you want to work in. You’ll also want to consider the job outlook, as well as the education or training necessary.
How much you’ll make as a nurse will depend on several factors, including where you work, what degrees you have, and what industry you work in. Here’s a look at some of the top nursing jobs and what they do.
Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
Anesthesia needs to be delivered and monitored carefully to keep patients under during surgery. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are integral to ensuring that patients do not wake up prematurely or receive too much anesthesia during a procedure.
CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered, such as hospital surgical suites, critical access hospitals, and dentist offices. CRNAs make up more than 80% of anesthesia providers in rural areas, and half of the rural hospitals use a CRNA-only model for obstetric care.
Starting in 2022, it takes 7 to 8 years of education and experience to become a CRNA. According to Nurse Journal, to become a CRNA, you must:
- Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
- Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).
- Pursue a specialization while working as an RN in an acute care setting.
- Enroll in a graduate nurse anesthesia program.
- Get from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
- Get state licensure.
- Find employment.
The high demand for nurse anesthetists has led to significant pay increases. CRNA salaries have increased by 23.4% since 2016, according to BLS data. That year, the mean annual wage was $164,030—last year, that number skyrocketed to $202,470. BLS also projects a 13% job growth rate for CRNAs from 2020 to 2030.
Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse
ICU nurses, also known as critical care nurses, are highly trained RNs who work with patients who have life-threatening conditions. Patients who have been admitted to the ICU are often intubated or ventilated, and they may also be on several life-saving medications at once. ICU nurses have to make split-second decisions once a patient’s status changes, and they are responsible for providing updates to doctors and the patient’s family.
To become an ICU nurse, you must first obtain a nursing degree, pass the NCLEX-RN, and receive state licensure. You then need to gain on the job experience and get an ICU nurse certification. Once you obtain certification, you can start applying for jobs in ICUs at different healthcare facilities.
There are also several specialties an ICU nurse can consider, including:
- Cardiac ICU nurses who work with patients who have severe heart conditions.
- Medical ICU nurses who care for patients with critical disease processes such as sepsis.
- Neonatal ICU nurses who work with newborns, often with life-threatening conditions.
- Pediatric ICU nurses who work with critically ill or injured children.
- Surgical/Trauma ICU nurses who work with patients who are critically ill or unstable and have an emergent need for surgery.
The salary for ICU nurses varies depending on the specialty, type of facility, and other factors, such as location and education level. However, RNs earn a median annual salary of $77,600, according to BLS data. The average annual salary for ICU nurses was $120,775, according to ZipRecruiter.
Emergency room nurse
In the United States, 130 million patients visit the emergency department each year. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that emergency room nurses are in high demand. ER nurses are licensed RNs who are responsible for triaging patients and caring for them prior to being admitted. Although they typically work in hospital emergency rooms, ER nurses can also work in burn centers, poison control centers, government agencies, or ambulance transport teams.
To become an ER nurse, you must first earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or BSN. ER nurse jobs at larger hospitals typically require a BSN, which is also necessary to pursue a Master of Science in nursing (MSN) or Doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
ER nurses also have several specialties to choose from, including:
- Trauma ER nurse
- Flight ER nurse
- Pediatric ER nurse
- Triage ER nurse
Unlike ICU nurses, ER nurses treat patients when they first arrive at the hospital and focus on immediate treatment and stabilization. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for ER nurses is $105,152 per year.
Nursing is a fulfilling career for people who like to take care of others. No matter what specialty or role you choose, you can rest assured that you are doing important work that makes a difference.
Nurses play an important role in ensuring PACT multi-specialty providers can provide quality healthcare services to patients. If you are a nurse and want to share in the PACT vision of delivering patient-centered and innovative healthcare, apply to one of our top nursing jobs today.