The shortage of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States has been a cyclical topic dating back to the 1960s. Only recently have employers in certain regions of the nation stated a decline in the demand for RNs. Consequently, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2014) report on 2012-2013 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, American nursing schools denied admission to 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012. The reported decrease in job availability and rejected admissions has left many individuals to question if the nursing shortage still exists. On the other hand, some experts project that the United States will be short more than one million RNs by 2020 (Dolan, 2011). Although some parts of the country are in less of a demand than others, it is undeniable that there is a national shortage of RNs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Employment Projections 2012-2022 released in January 2014, the Registered Nursing workforce is the top occupation in terms of job growth through 2022. It is expected that the number of employed nurses will grow from 2.71 million in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022, an increase of 526,800 or 19 percent. Growth will take place for a number of reasons: demand for health care services due to increasing life expectancy; chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity; and the number of individuals who have access to health services.
Unfortunately, today’s supply of nurses is not expected to live up to the forecasted demand. It is estimated that more than 70 million Americans will be age 65 or older by the year 2030 (Houde & Melillo, 2009). The fact that the elder population typically has more medical problems than the younger population raises concern about the nursing workforces ability to adequately care for older adults in the future. In the 1990 census, there were 77 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) compared with the 44 million in the subsequent generation (Fox & Abrahamson, 2009, p. 237). This population imbalance creates quite the challenge for the future of nursing. It is anticipated that the United States will need a 35 percent increase in formal health care providers by 2030 in order to meet the needs of the growing population (Houde & Melillo, 2009).
Buerhaus, Auerbach, and Staiger (2009), estimate the nursing shortage to grow to 260,000 by 2025. They pinpoint the rapidly aging workforce as a principle contributor to the projected shortage. A deficiency of this extent would be twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced in this nation since the 1960s. Further complicating the problem is the fact that a substantial portion of the nursing workforce is approaching retirement age. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2013) predict that within the next 10 to 15 years, more than...