What Employers Want: The Measure of Importance of Various Skills for Registered Nurses




Villarreal, John

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Facing today's globalized economy American workers no longer compete with only each other for high-wage or even low-wage jobs. If market equilibrium exists, employers' demand for skilled labor will equal the supply of workers with the requisite skills; but this does not always occur. The shortage of skilled labor constitutes an apparent gap between the skills employers are looking for and those skills the American workforce can bring to market. Globalization and technology have affected skill requirements for all workers and Registered Nurses are no exception. It is important to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that Registered Nurses will experience the largest numerical growth, be one of the fastest growing in terms of percentages, and among the higher paying occupations between 2000-2010. The importance of having enough skilled Registered Nurses to provide care for an ever-growing population can therefore not be understated. The purpose of this study is threefold. First, to describe the opinions of employers about the relative importance of generic and specific skills used by Nurses. Using the results of an employer survey, the second purpose is to compare the employer opinions with a previous study of Nurses' opinions about the importance of various skills. Third, the results of the comparison are used to speculate about the implications of differences and place them into perspective. Across six skills categories, employers placed a higher level of importance on Basic, Complex Problem Solving, and Social skills respectively. Within these broad categories, employers placed a higher value on understanding implications of new information for future use, teaching others, reorganizing information to better approach problems, and adapting equipment to serve user needs. Using logic to solve problems, adjusting action in relation to others, and developing an approach to implement an idea are just a few of the most important skills identified by Nurses. Even though employer importance scores are vastly different from those assigned by working Nurses, there is agreement on the most important skill categories and the most important skills within each category. As new procedures and technology emerge, new skills will be required to keep pace with these changes. Registered Nurses are faced with many challenges in a dynamic health care industry, and greater skill development will only solidify their importance and ability to deliver quality health care.


An Applied Research Project Submitted to the Department of Political Science, Southwest Texas State University, in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Public Administration, Fall 2002.


registered nurses, workers, skilled labor, American workforce, employer, Public Administration


Villarreal, J. (2002). What employers want: The measure of importance of various skills for registered nurses. Masters of Public Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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