Registered nurses are riding a demographic wave of aging Americans toward high-paying jobs with the employers of their choosing.
The so-called “Silver Tsunami” means career gold for people with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, according to state and local experts.
“Three-quarters of the graduates from our May cohort had full-time jobs before they graduated,” said Jane Bagley, Department of Nursing chairperson at St. Cloud State University. “We had a student turn down six job offers before she took the seventh.”
The federal government ranks registered nursing second among occupations with the most job growth, through 2024. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2016 median annual wage for a registered nurse was $68,450.
The four-county area around St. Cloud is expected to have 68,000 more seniors by 2025, according to Luke Greiner, an analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Those 65-and-older Americans often have complex and overlapping health problems. Called multiple morbidities, they demand high-level nursing skills earned through a Bachelor of Science nursing program, such as St. Cloud State’s.
“We are a very clinical intensive program,” said Bagley. “We probably have the most clinical hours of any school of nursing across the state of Minnesota.”
One of those clinical courses is Nursing Care of Older Adults, which applies principles learned in a companion theory course.
“We pretty much focus on care of the older adult population throughout the five semesters of our program,” Bagley said.
In-depth academic advising and testing are among the reasons St. Cloud State graduates have a 97 percent first-time pass rate on NCLEX-RN, the national licensing exam, said Rochelle Ament, student services coordinator.
The multiple morbidities issue has helped fuel a national push for more four-year registered nurses. In 2010, the landmark report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” called for 80 percent of the nation’s nurses to have bachelor’s degrees by 2020.
St. Cloud State responded to that call by creating an online program to help two-year registered nurses earn a Bachelor of Science nursing degree. The RN to BS programrequires an investment of $9,600 and three semesters of nursing coursework.
“Our preference is to hire bachelor’s degree prepared nurses,” said Roxanne Wilson, of St. Cloud Hospital. “But, we hire excellent two-year RNs with the understanding they complete their Bachelor of Science in a specified amount of time.”
Of the registered nurses hired at the hospital in the last five years, 13 percent graduated from St. Cloud State, said Wilson. Among her responsibilities, Wilson directs the hospital’s Magnet Program for promoting nursing excellence.
“What we’ve seen in our St. Cloud State graduates is rigor,” said Wilson. “They’ve consistently been good quality graduates, prepared to be nurses.”
St. Cloud State’s nursing program is housed in Brown Hall, which was renovated in 2010. That renovation, the 2009 expansion of Wick Science Center, the 2013 construction of the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility, and the 2017-18 renovation of Eastman Hall as a health facility mark St. Cloud State’s commitment to the sciences.