Projected Nursing Shortage Eases by 420,000


A major new study shows that the projected nursing shortage has shrunk by 420,000 registered nurses.

The biggest contributor to the change -- now a predicted 340,000 shortage compared with the previously projected 760,000 -- is that more people are entering the profession in their late 20s and early 30s, says Vanderbilt University Medical Center professor Peter Buerhaus, one of the researchers who produced the study.

The new study is to be published in the January/February 2007 issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Authors David Auerbach, Ph.D., of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Dartmouth Economics Professor Douglas Staiger, Ph.D., publish their new study in the January/February 2007 issue of the journal Health Affairs.
Although the research points to a large reduction that shows the country is on the right track, Buerhaus says, if the projected shortage is not further reduced, the nation's health-care system could be overwhelmed.
"I would liken it to a category five hurricane that's weakened to a category four," says Buerhaus. "Even if it hits, a four's going to kill you as much a five. It's still a massive, big shortage."
The study, "Better Late than Never: Workforce Supply Implications of Later Entry into Nursing," also addresses the concern over the aging work force. The current average age of registered nurses is 43.5 years and it's projected to be 44.9 by 2016.
"While more older people are attracted to nursing, the number of people entering nursing in their early to mid-20s remains at its lowest point in 40 years," said Dartmouth College economics professor and study researcher Douglas Staiger.

Study findings show that people born in the 1970s are now almost as likely to become nurses as people born during the 1950s when interest in nursing careers was at its height.
 The authors also suggest some reasons for these findings such as most nurses are either graduating from two-year associate degree programs after a substantial period in their early 20s spent in other careers, or they are entering nursing via 12 to 18 month “accelerated” bachelor-of-science degree programs designed for those with other bachelor’s degrees.
The study also cites the increase of foreign born registered nurses in the workforce, the national Johnson & Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing’s Future dedicated to attracting people to nursing careers and response to 9/11 as contributing factors explaining why the profession has attracted large numbers of older entrants.

The study titled: “Better Late than Never: Workforce Supply Implications of Later Entry into Nursing,” was funded by an unrestricted grant from Johnson & Johnson.


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