Nurses in high demand, shortage expected to worsen

The discussion of current and looming physician shortage has dominated talk of provider demand, but the shortage of registered nurses is also putting a strain on hospitals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in the next five years, about 1.1 million more nurses will be needed. In addition to increased demand for health care services due to millions of previously uninsured patients gaining health care coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), the majority of registered nurses are at least 50 years old.

Demand

Large hospitals are reporting dozens of openings for nurses, which is leading them to hold recruitment fairs and offer incentives, such as signing bonuses, to fill these spots. In addition to the projected five year demand, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) points out that one million nurses will likely reach retirement age in about 10-15 years. As patients are living longer with serious illnesses, this demand is only growing stronger. The director of the Missouri Center for Nursing said that emerging opportunities for nurses in new fields, such as insurance companies, are impacting hospitals, as well.

Faculty shortages

Nursing schools are unable to churn out more graduates because it is difficult to hire the needed faculty. Thousands of qualified applicants were turned away from nursing master’s and doctoral programs simply because there are not enough teachers. Although the nursing program at Missouri Southern State University is fully staffed, the school’s interim director said that it could expand with more faculty. According to HHS, the number of nursing graduates per year increased by about 86,000 from 2001 to 2013 due to efforts to expand programs in order to address the projected nursing shortfall.