For many reasons, it’s a great time to be a nurse

“I can’t think of a better time to enter the [nursing] profession,” said Angela Haynes, DNP, FNP-BC, MPH, dean of nursing at Shorter University in Rome .

I couldn’t agree more. Looking back at the Pulse editions from 2012, I saw that we covered stories about veteran nurses and new nurses, cutting-edge programs, increasing education levels, lifesaving units, multiple career paths and critical research.

It’s a picture of a profession that’s raising its standards, leading in a complex health care environment and still showing the compassion and dedication to patients  that have always been at the center of nursing. It’s a profession that’s not only needed, but increasingly valued.

Statistics back me up. Employment for registered nurses is projected to grow by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Technological advancements [think electronic medical records], an increased emphasis on preventive care, the growing role of nurses in many settings, and a baby boomer generation that is aging and living longer are all  driving the demand.

An AMN Healthcare 2012 survey of registered nurses found that despite the slow economic recovery and uncertainty of the effects of the Affordable Health Care Act, 91 percent of responding nurses were satisfied with their nursing career and 73 percent were happy with their current job.

The numbers increased greatly from 2011, when 74 percent of nurses were satisfied with their career and 55 percent said that they “planned to continue working as I am.”

Survey experts speculated that the jump could have come from the positive attention nursing has received since the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Report, which showed that nurses have  a bright future and called for them to be key players in transforming health care in the future.

To meet the recommendations of the IOM report and a looming nursing shortage in Georgia, universities and colleges across the state have launched new nursing programs, more bridge programs to allow registered nurses to earn BSN degrees, and more advanced nursing degrees.

“Regardless of how the Affordable Health Care Act is implemented, we know that we are going to need more nurse practitioners serving in our communities and a higher level of practice at the bedside. That’s the real emphasis behind educating more nurses at the baccalaureate level,” said Linda Streit, RN, DSN, dean of Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing .

With a bachelor’s degree, nurses can provide a higher level of care, and continue their education to work in advanced practice roles.

While nurses are working to raise the bar, the public already holds them in high esteem. According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, nurses ranked highest (85 percent) among all professions. Technically, the poll measured Americans’ perceptions of honesty and ethical standards, but pollsters note that the approval rating is indicative of a broader measure of the  profession’s image.

Opportunities for nurses and how people perceive the profession are on the upswing. That’s a lot to celebrate.