Nursing Shortage Is Over? Really?
To those affected by the most recent RN shortage
that began in the late 1990s, research by workforce expert Peter I. Buerhaus,
PhD, RN, FAAN, and colleagues published in the December issue of Health Affairs is earth-shattering. Thanks to younger
nurses entering the profession at a rate not seen since the 1970s, they say
rather than declining as has long been predicted, the RN workforce is expected
to maintain pace with population growth through 2030. See the full story here.
It had been widely accepted a nursing shortage with vacancies in
the hundreds of thousands nationwide was only a decade or two away. Now
Vanderbilt University's Buerhaus, lead author David Auerbach of RAND Health and
co-author Douglas Staiger of Dartmouth College have upended that assumption.
"Using estimates that were available [10 years ago] of the
future need for registered nurses, shortfalls of 20 percent, or approximately
400,000 RNs, were expected by 2020. These shortfalls grew even larger when
those requirements were subsequently updated," they write.
The new projection sees a dramatic change: "...The baseline
projection suggests that supply per capita will remain fairly stable through
2030, at just more than 800 full-time-equivalent registered nurses per 100,000
residents. The absolute size of the RN workforce (not per capita) is projected
to grow by approximately 24 percent between 2009 and 2030, which is roughly the
rate of projected population growth over this period. In this projection, the
large retiring cohorts of baby-boomer registered nurses are being replaced by
entering cohorts that will eventually be even larger, leading to a steady
increase in the size of the workforce."
Projections of the coming mega-shortage always seemed overblown.
Although the free market has recently taken a beating in public perception,
here's evidence it still has a way of effectively allocating labor. Efforts in
the public and private sectors to promote the image of nursing - led in many
communities by nurses themselves - have been remarkably successful, and all
involved should be congratulated.
However, we're still waiting for research examining the
circumstances of those who have earned nursing degrees in the past few years.
The data period in the Health
Affairs report ends in 2009,
which is about when overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests new grads started
experiencing difficulty landing jobs. We typically receive a number online and
offline comments reaffirming when we cover the subject. Here's
a recent example.
Graduates of elite
schools may still find doors
open to them, but too many others are frustrated in their efforts. A colleague
who attended a meeting of healthcare recruiters in New York last month reported
one of the major topics discussed was what to do with all the new nursing
grads. Recent graduates in California having trouble getting hired were the
subject of a newspaper
story this week.
The nursing workforce is still in crisis. Only the focus has
shifted, from employers seeking nurses to new nurses who need opportunities. If
their needs remain unaddressed, these rosy projections will not be realized.
Is the nursing shortage a thing of the past in your world?