Even though the economy is in steep decline and layoffs are a daily headline and topic for anxiety-laced discussion, there are still careers that remain steady, consistent, and reliable. In fact, the nursing profession has been a beacon of hope in a time when lights continue to dim for many industries. The reason? An enduring and prolific nursing shortage in this country.
Recently, nursing care in America’s hospitals experienced extraordinary shortages, the worst in 50 years. Research indicates that these fluctuating shortages will remain a part of the healthcare landscape for years to come. It will most certainly intensify as 78 million baby boomers advance in age creating a growing demand for quality health care. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment levels to meet the rising demand for nursing care. By the year 2015, all 50 states will experience a shortage of nurses to varying degrees.
According to a report released by the American Hospital Association in July 2007, U.S. hospitals required approximately 116,000 Registered Nurses to fill vacant positions nationwide. This translates into a national RN vacancy rate of 8.1%.
Clearly, the nursing profession is an area of hope for job seekers and career changers. After all, the impact of a nursing shortage on public health will be enormous, and will need to be addressed. And as the population continues to grow and age, the demand for high quality nursing care will expand. As it is, the profession faces difficulties retaining the existing workforce.
Some of the facts concerning the nursing shortage include:
– Enrollment in schools of nursing is not growing fast enough to meet the projected demand for nurses over the next ten years. To meet the projected growth in demand for RN services, the country must graduate approximately 90 percent more nurses from US nursing programs.
– A shortage of nursing school faculty is playing a role in restricting nursing program enrollments. U.S. nursing schools turned away 40,285 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2007 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.
– Today, nearly 60% of the RN workforce is over 40 years old. Between 2002 and 2006, employment of RN’s between the ages of 50 and 64 grew by more than 250,000. Over the same period, there was a decline of more than 40,000 in those between 35 and 49 years of age, and relatively little growth in the employment of nearly 36,000 21 to 34 year old RN’s. Projections indicate that by 2012, more employed RN’s will be in their 50’s than in an other age group, and by 2020, there will be more RN’s in their 60’s than in their 20’s.
– The total population of registered nurses is growing at a slow rate. Although the total RN population has increased at every 4-year interval since 1980, it is growing at a much slower rate than before.
While all this information is potentially bad news for healthcare and those who require it today and in years to come, it is opportunity knocking for those seeking career employment. It is a profession simply too important to buckle under the weight of a recession.
Some have already heard the knocking. A recent Newsday (New York) article indicated Nassau Community College in Long Island, New York is nearly doubling the size of this spring’s new nursing class. A stone’s throw away at Stony Brook University, there were similar results for undergraduate nursing programs. News from around the country echoes this surge.
So, with jobless rates escalating and companies closing shop with frightening consistency, the nursing profession is one door that seems providentially open.