With new emerging technologies and advancements in the medical field, it is estimated that life expectancy in the U.S. has increased to 81 years for females and 74 for males. The idea of having our loved-ones with us for a few more years might seem to be exciting. However, the truth is that this poses an issue given the current amount of nurses. It appears that living longer does not necessarily mean living healthier. This might become a problem as numbers and predictions show that soon we could start facing a shortage of nurses.

Increased life expectancy is not the only explanation for this shortage. Baby boomers, those who were born between 1946 and 1964, not only make up a substantial part of the world’s population but they represent about 20% of the American population. As they prepare to retire, the size of the workforce will be impacted across many fields, including many nursing professions. To get to be in this position, faculty are required to have at minimum a master’s degree, if not a doctorate a long with substantial clinical experience. All of this combined takes time to get and thus attracts an older workforce.

Throughout 2018, more than 75,000 qualified applicants for nursing programs across the U.S. had to be turned down due to schools not having enough faculty to educate their students. Having less nursing students means there are fewer graduates in this field. With fewer graduates, hospitals do not have enough people to hire. 50% of surveyed hospitals said they did not see an increase in applicants in 2017. If we consider faculty approaching retirement on top of many applicants not being able to enroll in nursing schools, a shortage will become a reality sooner than we think.

Another reason for the reduction of the nursing workforce has to do with their allocation. Elizabeth Madigan, who is the CEO of Sigma Theta Tau International, the global honor society for the nursing profession and a registered nurse as well, claims that there are some facilities, like rural hospitals and rural primary care settings where it is very difficult to have all the registered nurses that are needed. This is mainly because recent graduates are more than often attracted to urban areas to develop their careers. Nonetheless, facilities located in these areas, such as nursing homes, have trouble finding enough RNs.

By the year 2030, states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia and New York will have a surplus of nurses, while California, Texas, New Jersey and South Caroline will be the among the states with the biggest shortage.

close up of a nurse's uniform with a stethoscope and pens in the pocket

In response to this potential crisis,  the healthcare industry and the government as well should take a close look at what they can do to attract and retain nurses. Some of the solutions could include changing state laws to grant nurses more authority, allowing them to have more flexible schedules and offering them more opportunities in their careers.

For attracting students, more grants and scholarships should be offered. In addition, they should ensure that educational institutions are fully equipped with qualified faculty. Finally, simply trying to encourage younger audiences into this field of study could also serve as a solution.