Nursing jobs in greatest demand by specialty

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Industry experts and hiring managers reveal most in-demand nursing specialties and roles right now.

Clinical health care workers such as nurses and physicians are almost always in high demand. Add a pandemic into the equation, and the health care job market intensifies exponentially.

Heading into 2021 amidst the the coronavirus, which nursing jobs are in hottest demand? Unsurprisingly, most health care staffing executives and hiring managers list critical care nurses as their primary need right now, to staff ICUs.

ICU critical care nurses in greatest demand

“We work with more than 600 hospitals and surgery centers, and more than 150 long-term care facilities across the country, and by far we are seeing the biggest demand for ICU nurses, med-surge, and telemetry nurses,” states Cherie Kloss, founder and CEO of the Atlanta-based startup SnapNurse, a nurse staffing agency. “We are deploying at least 1,000 ICU and med-surge nurses every week – and this will only continue to grow as the number of COVID cases continues to rise,” Kloss adds.

Kathy Kohnke, senior vice president at Fastaff, is experiencing a similar trend at her company. “The most in-demand nursing specialties and types of nursing jobs during the pandemic are occurring in the ICU, with an increase in demand up over 500% than pre-pandemic times.”

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Telemetry nurses

Telemetry nursing jobs are also among the top three nursing jobs in greatest demand right now. Kohnke says openings for telemetry nurses are their second-highest demand, and Kloss lists it as third highest. Telemetry nurses are experienced in reading monitoring equipment such as cardiac monitoring, blood pressure, and other vital signs. Telemetry nurses work in step-down units, progressive care units, or telemetry floors.

Other nursing jobs in high demand

Home Health Aides: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides are projected to become the most in demand job by 2030. “It comes as no surprise that the coronavirus crisis shocked our health care system,” says Joe Pecora, vice president of Home Healthcare Workers of America, which represents more than 28,000 home health care workers. “Since COVID has left its mark on nursing homes, families are now re-evaluating elder care for their loved ones. Home care is the safest and most affordable health option for the elderly population, especially those most at risk of suffering serious side effects of the coronavirus. As more families look into this as an option, demand for workers will increase and we must be ready to meet it.”

Emergency medicine: Multiple staffing leaders list emergency medicine among their top three most requested nursing professionals, including those at SnapNurse and Fastaff.

Medical-surgical nurses: Medical-surgical nurses handle a broad range of patients and vast array of clinical duties in medical and surgical units within a hospital, which puts them in high demand in normal times, and especially during a pandemic, due to their flexibility and scope of knowledge. “The daily schedule or yearly agenda of these nurses is difficult to predict due to the many different types of patients they see and treat,” according to RegisteredNursing.org. “A busy and often stressful hospital environment is common” for medical-surgical nurses.

Geriatric nursing: “Geriatric nursing, and particularly nurses with practicum experience in both primary care and telehealth settings, will be hugely important to the health care industry not only as our population continues to age, but as many senior care facilities make major updates to their virtual care options in the wake of the pandemic,” states Sarah Johnson, RN, health ambassador for Family Assets, a web-based eldercare and senior living resource. “Virtual care and diagnostics also look poised to greatly expand the job options for nurses,” she concludes.

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Other current trends in the nursing job market

The COVID-19 virus has wreaked havoc on the health care workforce and caused many job market projections to be far from accurate, as no one could have predicted the pandemic or factored in its impact when forecasting future health care job market trends. The pandemic has caused multiple nursing job market trends which were unexpected for this year.

Compensation: Industry experts agree that this intense demand is driving up compensation for these in-demand nursing roles. “Hospitals have had to lure nurses with higher wages during the pandemic to compete for the nurses needed to take care of the increased patients flowing into the hospitals. This demand is expected to continue well into the first six months of 2021,” Kohnke states regarding the trends they are experiencing at Fastaff.

Cherie Kloss adds that nurses at SnapNurse are seeing compensation rates that have grown up to four times higher than average salaries last year. Kloss predicts that this compensation trend will continue over the next 12-24 months as they continue to combat the pandemic.

Travel nursing: Due to the ever-fluctuating COVID-19 hot-spots and outbreaks which cause substantial but often short-term surges in patient census, many hospitals utilize travel nurses to fill these needs. According to Fastaff, their team has seen requests for travel nurses in Georgia increase by more than 1,000% from 2019 to 2020. Other Eastern states with +1,000% growth in demand for travel nurses include Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Maine.

Nursing jobs in light demand: Are any nursing jobs in low demand? “There are few specialties that are finding it hard to find jobs in 2021, but if there are some specialties that are in lower demand than others, it appears that it may be in the pediatric areas,” Kohnke explains.

Changing specialties: Is it possible for nurses to switch into a more high-demand specialty if they desire? Yes, but it’s not always easy or immediate, according to Cherie Kloss. “Most nurses only need to have one to two years’ experience [in a given specialty], but it is very hard to get cross training in a new specialty,” Kloss states. Nurses have to find a hospital willing to train them in a new specialty. Cross-training is one staffing challenge that Kloss aims to solve in the future with new resources from SnapNurse.