How to Compete in the High-Demand Nursing Market

06/28/16   |  
Cindy Wheatley and Christopher Gardiner

This summer, we released our first Nursing Market Study as part of our Vertical Market Study Series.

Nursing education is in a state of flux as the profession strives to meet the growing demand for more, and better prepared, nurses. In 2010, The Institute of Medicine recommended increasing the number of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020.1

Similarly, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing member institutions voted in 2004 to support the move from the master’s degree to the doctorate for advanced practice nurses by 2015.2 The results of this study show the impact of these shifts with the rapid growth of baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree enrollments, along with the rise of online learning as a viable modality for delivering nursing education at every level.

With strong demand comes strong competition. Keypath offers the following strategic recommendations for institutions wishing to compete in the nursing market and maximize their enrollment.

With the push for more bachelor's prepared nurses, the RN to BSN market is large and highly competitive. Hospital systems are looking to partner with schools to provide low-cost degrees that are highly accessible for working nurses. Fully online delivery is rapidly becoming the dominant modality, with multiple intakes for RNs to begin their program when it is convenient for them.

This is also a price-sensitive market, with average program costs of $15,000 or less. Institutions offering the RN to BSN should consider also offering the RN to MSN, especially for Nursing Administration, Nursing Education, Clinical Nurse Leader and Clinical Nurse Specialist tracks that will appeal to RNs.

Nurse Practitioner programs continue to be the predominant specializations among Master of Nursing programs. Family Nurse Practitioner is five times larger than the next-largest specialization (Adult/Gerontology) and represents 67 percent of enrollments. However, Google search volume suggests that most prospective students search using generic Nurse Practitioner keywords rather than searching for a specific specialization.

To maximize conversion and enrollments, Keypath recommends offering a suite of Nurse Practitioner specializations, with FNP as the anchor. Due to the clinical placements, an online competition for Nurse Practitioner programs is lower than for nonclinical programs. This market is also less price-sensitive than the RN to BSN market because of the higher salaries that advanced practice nurses command.

The DNP has seen triple-digit growth rates over the past five years and has a high monthly search volume, suggesting strong demand. However, with the slow progress toward making the DNP the entry-level degree for advanced practice Nursing specializations, the MSN will likely continue to dominate. As a result, schools should consider offering both the BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP options online.

  1. Institute of Medicine (2010), “The Future of Nursing”
  2. AACN (2004), “Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing”