Nursing Careers for the 21st Century

By Barker, Dedria A. Humphries | Diversity Employers, February 1995 | Go to article overview

Nursing Careers for the 21st Century


Barker, Dedria A. Humphries, Diversity Employers


As a labor and delivery nurse, Sameerah Shareef nursed women in childbirth and their newborns. No experience, however, influenced her working career as much as the birth of her first child, which was, she says, "pretty terrible."

"I viewed birth as a normal kind of process, but it turned into [something] a lot more terrifying than it had to be," Shareef says. They treated every [birth] like it was going to be a problem. It was disappointing, and I had to figure out why."

With that agenda, and after eight years' nursing experience in maternal/child services, Shareef decided to become a nurse-midwife she completed the Kentucky-based Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing off-site with the help of preceptors and examination proctors, and passed the American College of Nurse-Midwifery board examinations.

Now as a certified nurse/midwife, Shareef and her practice partner work with Blue Care Network Health Central, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield health maintenance organization in Lansing, Michigan. She provides obstetric services for normal pregnancies and gynecology services for well women. She works with the support of consulting physicians, to whom she refers women with abnormal pregnancies and disease. Certification in this practice area has boosted her earning power considerably - the average salary for a nurse-midwife is nearly $44,000.

"I realized that what I wanted to do was be on the wellness side, doing preventive things. Midwifery is really about babies and families. It's more than what I did as a staff nurse," Shareef says.

Shareef caught the high tide of change in health care services. While nursing has always promised steady employment - today 90,000 African-Americans are registered nurses - the future rewards of the development of the profession await those who continue to develop their skills. Statistics show that nursing will add 44 percent more positions in the 21st century - an explosion, says the president of the National Black Nurses Association, Dr. Linda Burnes Bolton.

"There is a wonderful opportunity for people who are really committed to helping other individuals realize their human potential," says Bolton.

Nurse/midwifery is one area ripe for entrepreneurial-minded nurses, says Margaret Carlton Warren, associate professor for nursing at North Carolina A&T State University. Nurse/mid-wives and nurse practitioners are eligible for payment from insurance companies. Other critical employment areas include community care-home health (acute care), community mental health, out-patient surgical centers and birthing centers. The director of three nursing divisions at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Bolton says that exciting new opportunities await committed nurses. One is the new nursing surgical specialty - RN First Assistant - which promises a minimum $125,000 salary.

Preparation For Nursing

Education paves the way to a successful nursing career. Shareef will receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) this year when she completes nine credit hours in the Case Western Reserve University nursing program. The university and the Frontier School are affiliated programs. Like Shareef's, 43 percent of all MSNs are granted in a clinical practice area.

Historically, hospitals operated nursing schools and taught nursing as a set of manual skills used in the care of sick people. These programs culminated in a diploma. Until recently, most nurses trained in diploma programs. But efforts to upgrade the nursing profession moved nursing training to the college campus.

The associate degree in nursing is now considered the most basic nursing degree. Community colleges now house most of these intense, two-year nursing programs which have, clinical skills as their centerpiece. They also introduce the student to professional approaches.

The profession is aiming to have every nurse qualified at the baccalaureate level, through four-year university programs.

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