State a factory for in-demand nurses

As the nation’s Baby Boomers age and boost the ranks of the geriatric, those of the generations who follow are afforded a golden career opportunity.

The health care industry is in need of nurses to help care for the expanding number of people who are now and will be requiring its services. Those who enter the nursing field have the option of a wide range of specialties – from pediatrics to hospice – in settings that include hospital intensive-care units and emergency rooms, patients’ homes and assisted-care facilities.

For those who are in high school now or are recent graduates, consider this: there will be lots of good-paying jobs in the field to go around.

And, according to Modern Healthcare magazine, few places are better situated to train nurses than Louisiana. In a study of 2005-2006 enrollment figures, the state has four of the top 12-largest nursing schools in the nation.

Northwestern State enrolled 1,928 students in that time; Southeastern Louisiana had 1,815; Louisiana-Lafayette had 1,575; and McNeese State had 1,163. NSU and SLU were No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. ULL was No. 7 and McNeese No. 12.

In 2007, the state had 14,113 nursing majors in its 24 nursing schools, according to the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, with 2,035 graduating in that field.

The state in 2006 ranked 24th in terms of nursing grads passing the national registered nurse licensing exam, with 88 percent of the 1,831 takers receiving licenses.

The course load to become a nurse is tough – with roughly a tenth of those who enter the curriculum getting a degree, according to a Southeastern Louisiana nursing school director.

The payoff, though, could be considered worth the effort for a license that can be earned with two years of study., an employment Web site, states that about 50 percent of registered nurses nationwide make from $54,613 to $65,787 a year. About 90 percent make more than $49,000.

Pay differentials for evening and weekend hours can help bump that, as well.

Job opportunities in this state abound, especially in the economic expansion that has come with the post-2005 hurricane recovery, and an abundance of nursing positions are among them.

– American Press, Lake Charles, La.