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Nursing Shortage: The Challenges Continues…

Within the first two decades of the 21st century, the United States population is projected to grow at least 18 percent and the population age 65 and older will increase at three times that rate.

Meeting the demand for registered nurses (RNs) that an aging population will require will be a challenge. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that the United States was living through a shortfall of 111,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) RNs in 2000 and projected that this figure will grow to 275,000 by 2010. That imbalance will nearly triple in the subsequent decade, reaching a shortfall of 800,000 FTE registered nurses by 2020.

The survey revealed several causes adding up to the nursing shortage:

Aging of RNs
Currently, the national average age of RNs is 43.3 years old. By 2010 it is estimated that 40 percent of RNs will be over the age of 50 years. Additionally, the average age of graduate nurses (GNs) is 31 years old. Thus, RNs are entering the nursing work force older and with fewer years to work in nursing before retirement.

Expanded career choices for women
Changes in health care markets and national economics, along with changing roles and better wages for women in other fields, have contributed to a trend of lower numbers of women choosing nursing as a career and an increased number of RNs leaving their jobs for employment in different areas. The changing workforce opportunities, coupled with a rapid expansion of career choices and rising wages for women, have reduced the pool of women entering nursing.

Low supply of RNS
Publicity of medical errors, negative images of the nursing profession, employment opportunities in competitive careers like technology, medicine and law and lower enrollments in nursing colleges since 1995 are all factors impeding the supply of nurses.

@ Medical Workforce Inc. 2006