Surge of Investment Needed to Prevent Nursing Shortage

Troy Brown, RN

September 05, 2014

More than 1 million new registered nurses (RNs) will be needed by 2022 to fill newly created jobs and replace retiring nurses, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA). An additional 12% increase in nursing workforce development funding is urged to head off the potential shortfall, the ANA said in a statement.

Demand for healthcare services is increasing because of the aging of Baby Boomers and new healthcare reforms that improve care access, change the system of payment to account for healthcare quality, and expand the focus on prevention and primary care services. In addition, many nurses are expected to retire in the coming years.

The US commemorates the 50th anniversary on September 4 of the historic Nurse Training Act (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act) geared toward educating, recruiting, and retaining RNs. As the anniversary approaches, the ANA is recommending a multipronged plan to make certain the number of nurses is sufficient to meet the demand.

"We're seeing mixed signals today in the nurse employment market. There have been layoffs by some hospitals at the same time that 'registered nurse' ranks as the most advertised position nationwide," ANA president Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, said in the statement. "But it would be a big mistake to ignore the reality of an aging population coupled with a graying nursing workforce. It is essential that we take common sense actions to plan for and invest in the next generations of nurses. Demand for care is going to grow and nurses are going to retire in droves, so we have to prepare now to meet future needs."

ANA Recommendations

  • Increase federal funding for Title VIII; this program has incurred an average 2% funding decrease during the last 4 years in spite of a rising demand for RNs and shortages in some areas. The ANA recommends a 12% increase for 2015.

  • Improve nursing education by developing and recruiting additional nursing professors and maintaining enough clinical training sites for nursing students. Nursing schools need to increase capacity and replace aging faculty, and increase incentives to teach new RNs. In 2012, nursing programs turned away approximately 80,000 qualified applicants, mainly due to a shortage of faculty. In a 2013 survey, 72% of full-time nursing faculty was aged over 50 years, predicting a large number of pending retirements. Nursing faculty salaries are primarily lower than those of many nurses with advanced degrees in clinical practice. A critical part of nursing education involves having an adequate number of clinical training sites; a June 2014 report showed that a majority of nursing school deans believe there is a shortage of sites.

  • With so many nurses nearing retirement age, the ANA also recommends that hospitals make the best use of experienced nurses by hiring new nurses who can learn from experienced nurses.

"Registered nurse" is the top occupation that requires an associate of baccalaureate degree in the anticipated number of annual job openings through 2022, according to the ANA. As Title VIII turns 50, the ANA is focused on ensuring that policy makers understand the employment demands and actions required to develop a sufficient nursing workforce.


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