As positive press about recent lows in unemployment circulate in the U.S., there is in fact one profession that exceeds all others in job availability and will continue to do so through the year 2022. According to Tom Bush, Assistant Dean of Practice and Associate Professor at the UNC School of Nursing, “there has never been a better time to be a nurse.” Dr. Bush gave an inspiring talk at the HHIVE Lab that shed light on the plethora of opportunities available to those who major in nursing or get a graduate degree as he did. The nurse practitioner profession has been propelled by a shift in health care towards more interactive care brought on by the compassionate and charismatic individuals who populate the specialty.
What many people don’t know about nurse practitioners is that their skills and responsibilities expand far past the typically understood definition. In North Carolina, Nurse Practitioners are approved to perform medical acts and they participate in collaborative practice agreements with physicians. They can manage hospitals, conduct research, and perform duties ranging from prenatal care to end-of-life care. However, Professor Bush insisted that the main attractive qualities of the profession extend far beyond the job description. Due to an education centered around skilled communication, nurses are exceptional teachers who are able to bond with those they serve; it is this ability that makes them the most trusted profession in the United States.
Even with all the positive attributes that continuously attract the nation’s brightest, the job also comes with emotionally and physically taxing work and some may question the benefits reaped from choosing such a difficult career path. To this, Professor Bush says that the ones who choose to pursue the nursing profession are propelled by courage. This courage leads to a connection that is extremely difficult to replicate, one which ultimately leads to elevated levels of caring between caretaker and patient. One way Professor Bush has experienced this level of care is its culmination in vulnerability that he says “is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity and love.” His work has been highly rewarding in ways he didn’t expect entering the field.
Following his discussion of the personal benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner, Dr. Bush explained how nurses play an integral role in the elimination of barriers to access as health care professions transition to more value-based systems of compensation. He made the claim that more nurses and healthcare professionals should be allotted to primary care practice in order to prevent chronic illnesses and maintain a healthier population. He suggested that this is done through the removal of intrusive regulatory barriers that play a role in preventing people from accessing care from qualified professionals. If the perception of health professions shifts from cure-focused and more towards care-centered, the shortage of health care professionals can be alleviated by greater utilization of nurse practitioners. This shift towards care coincides with an increase in advanced heath care technology with the ability to prolong life to a point where emotional compassion is the profession’s main concern. This places nursing at the forefront of need for a population that requires comfort and empathy from highly skilled clinicians.
Many UNC students don’t know that all this takes place much closer than expected. Right here at home, UNC Healthcare currently lists 628 nursing jobs available. There is a predicted shortage of 35,000-40,000 nurse practitioners by 2025 and salaries are rising for the profession. More so than just attractive job opportunities is exciting technological innovation occurring in the field. Currently the Gillings School of Global Public Health is partnering with NC State University to create drone technology that can detect a person in distress and quickly transport an AED to the scene. This project is being conducted with a UNC School of Nursing faculty member as principle investigator. The field is growing and Tom Bush encourages all students to take classes in the school of nursing. A degree in nursing will foster compassion,ingenuity, and a greater sense of connection with the community that is valuable for any profession.
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Kate Capitano is a sophomore majoring in Global Studies. Her concentration is Public Health and Environment with Latin America as the area of study. She is also on the pre-med track and hopes to combine the two through the Medicine, Literature, and Culture Minor. Specifically interested in women’s rights and health, Kate hopes of one day becoming an OBGYN.