Crisis: A National Nursing Shortage

The U.S. is facing a critical shortage of registered nurses that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment to meet the rising demand for nursing care. In addition, an aging nurse workforce and evolving healthcare reform will make the phenomenon more dire.

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has indicated that nearly 600,000 new nursing positions will need to be created by 2018 to address the current shortfall, and the Bureau of Health Professions estimates that 90 percent more nurses will need to be graduated from nursing programs to meet that demand. Also, according to Vanderbilt University, four out of every 10 nurses in the U.S. are over the age of 50 and will retire in the next ten years, exacerbating the shortage.


And, according to the PEW Charitable Trust and the PEW Center on the States, by 2020, the supply of nurses in the U.S. will fall short of demand by more than 1 million. Every state in the U.S. will experience a shortage of registered nurses to some degree as soon as 2015.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, in 2009, and in the midst of the U.S. economic recession, the healthcare sector continued to grow, despite significant job losses in nearly all major industries. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other ambulatory care settings added 21,000 new jobs in June 2009, a month when U.S. employers slashed 467,000 jobs.

The U.S. healthcare sector has long been thought of as recession-resistant. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September 2009, about a year into the worst economy in recent U.S. history, the healthcare sector actually added more than half a million jobs.  RNs are the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, and, in a down economy, nursing professionals are more likely than most to weather the storm.

Additional Resources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

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