Nursing is one of the nation's fastest-growing careers. It is expected to continue growing through at least 2026. While demand can vary throughout the country, Louisiana remains positioned for growth. Here is an overview of the state of nursing in Louisiana, including current salary estimates and recommended education levels.
Job Growth and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of U.S.-based positions for licensed nurses is expected to increase 15 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the average.
In terms of the occupations adding the most jobs, the Louisiana Workforce Commission lists licensed nurses among the top 10 occupations in all six regional labor market areas (RLMAs) in the state. It retains this rank for both 2018 and 2024 employment projections. There may be several reasons for the anticipated rise in employment opportunities, particularly the growing complexity of patient care due to chronic health conditions as well as the effect of the aging Baby Boomer population. The influx of newly insured patients following the Affordable Care Act may also be a contributing factor to the growth of nursing in Louisiana.
Additional BLS data shows that there were close to 3 million licensed nurses in the United States in 2017. Of those, approximately 45,970 nurses were licensed in the state of Louisiana, with full-time nurses earning an annual average salary of $63,560. Louisiana has a slightly higher concentration of nurses than the national average -- for every 1,000 jobs in Louisiana, 24.7 of those belonged to licensed nurses.
Louisiana's 2014 Nursing Workforce Demand Report predicted some of the greatest job growth opportunities may occur for direct care licensed nurses in hospice and home health, at 29.1 percent and 16.2 percent respectively. The report also indicated that Louisiana is not a surplus state in which supply of qualified nurses exceeds the demand.
Evolution of Education
While Louisiana nurses may have once been able to enter the field easily with a diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), industry standards have gradually evolved. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) -- which is now called the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) -- issued a report about the changing dynamics of healthcare and how nurses would be central to industry transformation. Due to these reasons and the growing complexity of patient care, the report strongly recommends that nurses, at a minimum, obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The Institute of Medicine also established a goal for healthcare employers to have 80 percent of their nurses BSN-prepared by 2020.
A 2017 report by the Louisiana Center for Nursing revealed that the majority of the state's licensed nurses now have a bachelor's degree: 56 percent of RNs renewing their license in 2016 reported a bachelor's degree as their highest level of education. Furthermore, the rate of new nurses with only an associate degree is declining: over the last five years, there has been a 33 percent decline in the number of ADN program graduates. In 2016-2017, only 36 percent of all nursing students were enrolled in ADN programs. To tackle the expected future industry challenges, as well as the IOM's 80 percent educational recommendation by 2020, healthcare employers in Louisiana continue to actively seek BSN-prepared candidates.
State Nursing Support
Nurses comprise the largest segment of Louisiana's healthcare workforce. Louisiana nurses have the benefit of supportive statewide nursing advocacy groups working to secure a better future for members of the profession. The Louisiana Action Coalition (LAC), for example, heads the Campaign for Action, an initiative striving to transform nursing education and leadership as well as remove barriers that impede nursing care. The LAC's platform is largely based on the recommendations laid out in the 2010 IOM report.
Projections suggest that nursing is likely to be a growing sector of the healthcare industry, both across the nation and in Louisiana, for much of the next decade. Nurses in the state may find that employers prefer BSN-prepared candidates, especially as the healthcare landscape evolves and the threat of a potential nursing shortage intensifies. Overall, the anticipated rise in career opportunities, coupled with salaries similar to the national average, strengthens the outlook for nursing in Louisiana.
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
Sources:Louisiana Workforce Commission - The Department of Labor: Short-Term to 2017 and Long-Term to 2024 Employment Projections
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