Nurse shortage to reemerge

Although the nursing shortage has temporarily ended, healthcare providers need to utilize existing nurses as efficiently as possible, as the shortage will reemerge as the U.S. economy improves, according to a study published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found that the number of full-time nurses increased by about 386,000 from 2005 to 2010 because many nurses who were not working or worked part-time returned to full-time status to boost their household finances.

But while the economy picks up, the mostly married, female nursing workforce will quit, go back to part-time or retire--restoring the need for more nurses, according to the report.

''Going ahead into 2020 and beyond, there are concerns that the kind of shortages we've had will be larger than what we've seen," study author Douglas Staiger, a professor of economics at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, told The Detroit News.

Previous research held a more optimistic long-term forecast for nurses. A December 2011 survey by the RAND Corporation, published in Health Affairs, found that the number of nurses ages 23 to 26 grew from 102,000 in 2002 to 165,000 in 2009. Should the growth rate among young nurses continue to grow, the study predicted the demand for new nurses could be met by 2030.

Meanwhile, male warehouse, factory and autoworkers are joining the nursing profession in droves, reported The New York Times. To help meet demand, a new program at Oakland University in Michigan has retrained about 50 autoworkers a year in nursing since 2009.

Moreover, the percentage of individuals certified in nursing who are men increased from 6.2 percent in 2000 to 9.6 percent in 2008, according to a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services survey, the article noted.

For more information:
- check out the NEJM study
- read the Detroit News article
- here's the RAND study abstract
- read the NYT article