Is Nursing Really Recession-Proof?


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs

Is Nursing Really Recession-Proof?

People will always get sick and need care, but will this make nursing a recession-proof career? The answer is as complex as the recession. Yes, people will always get sick and need care despite the economic status. Yes, the population is aging, more obese and, in general, demands better care.

But can people afford healthcare in a recession? With nearly 50 million Americans presently without any health insurance, it’s more likely they will opt to make the mortgage payment and not seek medical care unless it’s absolutely essential. So while this can mean a cutback in the number of patients being seen or cared for, it also means that those who are seeking care are often sicker than usual.

For those who are insured, the new calendar year has most likely brought higher co-pays, higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses as well as other changes in coverage for beneficiaries. These changes will affect the level of care Americans seek. And given a choice between paying the medical bills, buying food, or paying the mortgage; medical bills will more than likely be put on the bottom of the pile. This will impact the providers.

A leading indicator of a recession to health care industry professionals is the rise in the number of knee replacements and gum surgeries according to an article in the March 28, 2008, issue of Business Week. As Americans face possible layoffs and loss of health insurance, they often rush to have elective procedures done. On the other hand, many will forgo even necessary care for fear of losing their jobs for taking time off from work.

As hospitals, clinics, and other providers face financial losses associated with these factors, nurses and other staff will be affected. Some hospitals and other facilities have already instituted hiring freezes and a few have laid off staff. The nursing shortage isn’t going to go away because we are in a terrible economic crisis. Between 2006 and 2016, the BLS estimates that we will need 23% more RNs.

The really bad news is that economic situation is not expected to get better until it actually gets worse first. It is estimated that an additional 4.2 million Americans are likely to lose their health insurance coverage before the economy recovers.

Illness doesn’t take economic factors into account. The population today is older, more obese and more prone to chronic diseases. Those who face cancer, heart disease and emergency medical situations will need care whether they can afford it or not. Many will be sicker because they have put off seeking care until absolutely necessary which will tax the system even more. Should there be an epidemic or medical crisis during this recession, it could turn into a real medical mess!

Nurses are likely to find themselves placed in a precarious situation of being leveraged with the heavy hand of administrators threatening them to take on increased patient ratios or face layoffs themselves. This is going to be a time when nurses need to unite and stand strong in the face of adversity to not lose the small amounts of ground we have gained in this fight so far.

As the economy recovers, history has shown with past recessions that patients will rush the health care industry and it can be difficult to build back staff quickly enough to keep up with the demand. Because of the growing shortage of nurses, it is important for more people to continue to become nurses. There may be a shortage of jobs for new nurses for awhile, but as the economy recovers, this situation will improve and new nurses will once again find multiple options.

The nursing profession is not entirely recession-proof, but nurses are certainly positioned to be less likely to be laid off than many others. Will they be affected by the recession? Without a doubt.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the author/owner of

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