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Five Causes of Our Nation’s Nursing Shortage


As you may have heard, the U.S. is on the verge of a serious nursing shortage. In fact, if the problem persists, the number of qualified registered nurses will not be able to meet healthcare demands over the next decade. Here are five reasons for the impending crisis:

1. Aging Populace In Need of Care

America’s largest generation is getting older. The Baby Boomers, or people born between 1946 and 1964, account for almost a third of the U.S. population, and they’re currently reaching retirement age. As older individuals tend to require more medical care, additional healthcare workers are needed to fill the void. Without an increase in the number of qualified RNs, patient care is bound to suffer.

2. Rise in Number of Insured Patients

One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is universally mandated health insurance. As more individuals join the healthcare rolls, the number of patients visiting their doctors for routine check-ups and other treatments is expected to rise as well. Because there aren’t enough physicians to cover this increase in patients, many practices are looking to nurse practitioners and nurse-managed health centers to help pick up the slack. As a result, more RNs are needed to meet the increased demand.

3. Lack of Skilled Nursing Instructors

Combatting our nation’s nursing shortage requires that we graduate more qualified RNs. However, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. nursing schools rejected more than 75,000 applicants from graduate and baccalaureate nursing programs in 2011 due to a lack of teachers. Nursing programs are struggling to find experienced faculty members who are willing to relocate to schools in need of instructors. Additionally, many nurses hesitate to leave jobs in hospitals and doctors’ offices to accept lower-paying positions in academia. Whatever the reason, there simply aren’t enough qualified instructors to teach the next generation of nurses.

4. Lack of Interest in the Nursing Profession

Along with faculty shortages, many nursing schools are struggling to attract top talent. In the past, nursing was one of the few career options open to female students. However, as opportunities for women increased, the number of young people entering the nursing industry declined. As a result, the current nursing population is aging rapidly. With the Health Resources and Services Administration projecting that over a million RNs will hit retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years, the nursing shortage is only expected to worsen.

5. High Turnover Due to Poor Working Conditions

While experienced nurses may enjoy greater flexibility in the workplace, employment opportunities for new nurses are hardly glamorous. Along with regular overtime shifts, younger nurses are often expected to work nights, weekends and holidays. Many new nurses opt to leave the business in favor of a career with more flexibility. Additionally, lack of staffing may lead to an increase in medical error and patient infection. The stress of working at understaffed hospitals and offices leads many nurses to exit the field early.

Despite the many challenges of working in the nursing field, the shortage is going to result in an unprecedented demand for skilled registered nurses. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is anticipating over half a million new nursing jobs between 2012 and 2022. Whether you’re currently attending college or on the verge of enrolling, you may want to consider a career in this growing field.