Home E-Weekly July 29, 2014

What Nursing Shortage?

Published: July 28, 2014

Do you remember hearing dire predictions of an oncoming nursing shortage about a decade ago? Well, never mind. New research says it never came to pass.

Nationwide, the nursing workforce has spiked higher than government estimates projected it would back at the turn of the century, which observers attribute to the economic downturn of recent years and an increase in new nurses.

A total of 2.7 million registered nurses were at work in the U.S. in 2012, half a million more than labor analysts anticipated from the standpoint of the year 2000. While they'd predicted a shortage as the baby boom generation's nurses retired, those nurses have been postponing retirement in large numbers — a move seen in many career fields.

In addition, nursing programs have seen more than double the number of graduates since then. In 2002, there were 500,000 nurses under age 35, a number that increased to 750,000 by 2012.

While the combination of more grads and fewer retirements can crunch young nurses looking for work, policy researchers at the RAND Corporation — writing in the journal Health Affairsspeculate that the baby boomers' exits will begin within the next 5 years, and that the increased patient population and demand for services created by federal healthcare reform legislation will provide many opportunities for skilled nurses, particularly in ASCs, office-based practices and other non-hospital employers.

David Bernard

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