Is the Nursing Shortage Over?
by, 01-20-2010 at 02:35 PM (7628 Views)
Last week Virginia’s Healthcare Workforce Data Center presented a snapshot of the state’s nursing workforce and reported, “The current state of the economy is leading many nurses to remain in the workforce longer than anticipated. If they delay retirement by as few as two years, Virginia is more likely to meet 2013 – 2015 demand for licensed nurses.” However, let’s not be lulled into thinking that the nursing shortage is over.
Actually, the economic recession has masked the true extent of the impending shortage. Since December 2007, we’ve watched hospitals implement cost cutting measures such as laying off workers and closing units while more nurses have rejoined the workforce and still others delayed retirement.
Virginia’s population will likely grow by one million in the next 10 years with folks aged 65 and older making up 16% of the populated. Meanwhile, Virginia can expect to lose 20-25% of the current nursing workforce over the next 5 years. In their newly released book, Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation, the Carnegie Foundation reports, “To meet current and projected shortages, nursing education programs need to increase their capacity by approximately 90 percent.”
The nursing shortage is a real crisis that Virginia’s nurse leaders, policy makers, and consumers have been struggling with for years. As a result of their commitment to address the shortage, Virginia’s nursing schools have been able to produce 900 additional new graduates in the last four years. But still this is too few nurses to replace those expected to leave the workforce.
The Data Center projects a sharp increase in demand for nursing services in 2015 followed by a severe shortage. We know that it takes many years to produce a highly educated and skilled nursing workforce. In fact, nurses entering baccalaureate programs today won’t graduate until 2014 and then will require years of practice in order to gain the expert nursing skills of the workforce we’ll be losing.
The recession has created a false sense of complacency and averted the looming shortage for a few years. But let’s not lose sight of our goal – ensuring an adequate supply of highly skilled nurses to meet the future demands of the public.