Nursing Shortage Indicators
The nation is facing an impending shortage of nurses, which is expected to peak by 2020; here are some of the prime indicators:
According to projections released in February 2004 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs top the list of the 10 occupations with the largest projected job growth in the years 2002-2012. Although RNs have listed among the top 10 growth occupations in the past, this is the first time in recent history that RNs have ranked first. These 10-year projections are widely used in career guidance, in planning education and training programs and in studying long-range employment trends. According to the BLS report, more than 2.9 million RNs will be employed in the year 2012, up 623,000 from the nearly 2.3 million RNs employed in 2002. However, the total job openings, which include both job growth and the net replacement of nurses, will be more than 1.1 million. This growth, coupled with current trends of nurses retiring or leaving the profession and fewer new nurses, could lead to a nursing shortage of more than one million nurses by the end of this decade. (For details, see www.bls.gov/emp/#outlook.)
A 21 percent increase in the need for nurses is projected nationwide from 1998 to 2008, compared with a 14 percent increase for other occupations. (U.S. Department of Labor)
The nursing population is aging rapidly.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s March 2004 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, the aging of nurses as a demographic continues. In March 2004, the average age of the RN population was estimated to be 46.8 years of age, more than a year older than the average age of 45.2 years estimated in 2000 and more than four years older than in 1996, when the average age was 42.3 years. (This survey is conducted once every four years; for details, see http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/rnsurvey04/)
A study by Peter Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University on aging nurses published in the Nov. 17, 2004, issue of Health Affairs, paints a dire picture of the nursing shortage in the years ahead. According to the study, although overall employment of RNs increased by approximately 205,000 since 2001, most of the growth was attributed to nurses over 50 or foreign-born nurses, followed by women in their early 30s and men. The study recommends that schools of nursing increase their capacity to educate new RNs, as well as improve the ergonomic environment, especially to accommodate older nurses.
Buerhaus predicts that over the next two decades, a further aging of the RN workforce will continue, with the largest cohorts of RNs will be between age 50 and 69 years. Within the next 10 years, the average age of RNs is forecast to be 45.4 years, an increase of 3.5 years over the current age, with more than 40 percent of the RN workforce expected to be older than 50 years. By the year 2020, the RN workforce is forecast to be roughly the same size as it is today, falling nearly 20 percent below projected RN workforce requirements.
According to a Government Accounting Office report, Nursing Workforce: Emerging Nurse Shortages Due to Multiple Factors (GAO-01-944), released in July 2001, 40 percent of all RNs will be older than age 50 by 2010. (See www.gao.gov for details.)
According to AACN's report on 2001-2002 Salaries of Instructional and Administrative Nursing Faculty in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, the median age of a nurse faculty member is 51 years old. The average age of a doctorally-prepared nurse holding the ranks of professor, associate professor, and assistant professor were 56.3, 53.8, and 50.4 years, respectively.