According to an article published by theatlantic.com the U.S. has been dealing with a nursing deficit of varying degrees for decades, but today—due to an aging population, the rising incidence of chronic disease, an aging nursing workforce, and the limited capacity of nursing schools—this shortage is on the cusp of becoming a crisis.
Despite the growth of the nursing population, demand is outpacing supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.
The primary driving force is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation: Today, there are more Americans over the age of 65 than at any other time in U.S. history. Between 2010 and 2030, the population of senior citizens will increase by 75 percent to 69 million.
About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 68 percent have at least two.
But trying to cover the current demand is solving only part of the problem. Like the patients they serve, the country’s nurses are also aging. Around a million registered nurses (RNs) are currently older than 50, meaning one-third of the current nursing workforce will reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. Nearly 700,000 nurses are projected to retire or leave the labor force by 2024.
But filling the vacancies left by retiring nurses isn’t a simple task. Nearly 155,000 new nursing graduates entered the workforce in 2015.* While the number of new nursing students and graduates is growing, the nursing-education system hasn’t kept pace.
U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. Once again, aging is a factor: Many nursing faculty members are approaching retirement, but without them, nursing schools can’t expand their cohorts.Also many health-care providers don’t want to recruit these newer nurses because of their lack of experience.
But according to some experts, some U.S. regions have a plentiful supply of nurses, while other regions suffer a big shortage.The worst states (in terms of shortages) are: Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and New Mexico. For example, California has only produced 50 percent of the nurses it needed.
Reasons for theses shortages vary with the states: Florida and Arizona, for example, the aging population is the issue while in other states, the gap is largely due to a limited number of nurse-education opportunities. Rural and poorer areas have a harder time recruiting nurses than hospitals in big cities, which can offer higher-paying jobs and a better lifestyle.
Each state has different guidelines for what each type of license allows a nurse to do. For example, nurse practitioners are more limited in in South Dakota than in some neighboring states, and may choose not to take a job in South Dakota as a result.
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