Nursing shortage in 2025 will be smaller than projected

The nursing shortage 10 years from now won't be as dire as predicted 10 years ago, but new research still predicts a shortage of 130,000 nurses, or a 4 percent shortfall, by 2025.

The Great Recession prompted more nurses to remain in the field and drew more students to nursing school than earlier predicted, researchers from Montana State University and Dartmouth College found. They also credited national initiatives to promote nursing as a career for increasing the overall number of nurses, according to an announcement from Montana State.

Nearly 40 percent of registered nurses are older than 50, report co-author and healthcare economist David Auerbach said in the announcement. The age of the RN force is peaking this year at 44.4, meaning the average age of nurses is expected to trend downward over the next 10 to 15 years as older nurses leave and younger nurses come on board.

By 2030, the overall number of registered nurses will increase from about 2.7 million in 2013 to 3.3 million, the study projected, with new RNs nearly offsetting retirements. But that's only if new nurses enter the workforce at current rates, the researchers warned. The growth in nursing school enrollment experienced in the 2000s has already begun to level off.

If those numbers remain steady, the shortage will occur as the number of nurses leaving the workforce each year increases to nearly 80,000 by 2020, from about 40,000 in 2010 and 20,000 in 2005, the researchers found.

The findings are published in the current issue of Medical Care, the official journal of the American Public Health Association.

Nursing jobs at acute care hospitals remain the most competitive, with vacancy rates at hospitals doubling as hospitals hold out for experienced nurses over new ones.

While there's also a looming doctor shortage, the nursing shortage is more complex. Issues range from a shortage of nursing school faculty, limiting the numbers of students that can be trained, to dealing with issues such as burnout, work-related injuries and organizational culture that doesn't sufficiently value contributions from nurses.

For more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the Montana State article