The country is graying rapidly. The massive Baby Boom generation has entered its retirement years and by 2030, according to Census Bureau forecasts, Americans age 65 and older will represent 19% of the population (compare that to 13% in 2010). In addition, people are living longer thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment.
These two factors indicate strong demand for nursing homes. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in such facilities to increase by 24% from 2008-2018 – a much larger rise than that of most industries.
So if your career planning involves helping others, a career in a nursing home can be the answer.
The advantages include:
- Stability. Nursing homes are a staple in this country, and the aging population essentially ensures ongoing employment opportunities. It’s as close as you can come to a recession-proof career choice. “I tell people, if you want a field with job stability, this is it,” Genevieve Gipson, director of the National Network of Nursing Care Assistants, told the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Opportunities also exist at assisted-living centers, independent-living facilities and continuing-care communities.
- Diversity. The range of jobs in a nursing home go from entry-level (food servers and custodians), nurses’ aides and attendants, to more lucrative, career-oriented positions like certified nurse assistants, registered nurses and nurse managers. Other well-paying positions in the industry include occupational therapist and speech-language pathologist. With the right training, experience and certification, you could rise up the ranks.
- Pace. The life of a hospital or clinical nurse is often a hectic one. The more organized daily routine of a nursing home may appeal to you if you prefer a quieter work environment.
What does it take to succeed?
- A love for your work. There’s no denying that nursing home jobs can take you through the gamut of emotions; and as many residents end their lives in such places, it’s natural to hit highs and lows in your day. But the knowledge that you’re making a genuine difference in peoples’ lives can help get you through the low times.
- A thick skin. Face it; nursing homes don’t generally enjoy the best reputation. As a nurse, certified nurse’s aide or therapist, you represent your facility and your industry to friends, relatives and colleagues. Your attitude can help improve the image of nursing homes to the public. At the same time, disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease my affect the way some residents interact with you. Some days you may just wish to pack it all in – but you don’t. It takes a strong constitution and plenty of patience to realize success.
- An alarm clock. Nursing homes provide care 24 hours a day. Your shifts may include early mornings, late nights, weekends and holidays. It’s just the nature of the industry.
Prepping for your career
For the majority of career-tracking positions in a nursing home, the requirements include:
- Certification. Community colleges and universities offer coursework for certified nurse assistants. The classes may include training in patient care, legal issues and emergency procedures. A certification exam completes the course.
- Licenses. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) are required to be licensed in the state in which they work. If you are an LPN planning a move to another state, you may need to retake the licensure exam in your new state.
- Degrees. For licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse managers, the requirements can range from an associate’s to a master’s degree. Your coursework could include pharmacology, mental health, and management.
Take on the challenge
Nursing home careers aren’t for everyone, but if you are up to the training, the commitment and the opportunities for advancement, you may realize great success and personal enrichment.
As an LPN, RN, CAN or any other type of nurse professional, you are a member of an exclusive group – caregivers who represent the first line of patient care.