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Nursing Shortage

The registered nursing field is 3 million strong, and job opportunities for nurses are predicted to increase nationwide. The latest estimates indicate that an additional 260,000 nurses will be needed by 2025, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Affairs. Several factors may contribute to this rise: a growing elderly population, more nurses nearing retirement, increased numbers of people insured under the new affordable health care act, and even a predicted physician shortage. 

Nurses who have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree may find the most job opportunities in the market, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, it is the advanced practice nurses, or those with a master’s degree, who are expected to be in greatest demand. These advanced practice nurses include a group called nurse practitioners who have a collaborative relationship with doctors and can assist in health care and even prescribe medication in some states. Some 148,000 of these nurse practitioners are said to be needed by 2014 to help fill in with an anticipated shortage of doctors resulting from expanded patient health care coverage under Obamacare.  Nurse practitioners are said to be able to more quickly help fill the gap as they can be trained in as little as six years compared to the 10 to 15 needed to train primary care physicians, according to Businessweek. 

Nurses who want to undertake even further advanced training may consider one of more than 300 schools in the U.S. now offering programs for PhD and doctoral students. AACN  Student enrollment in these types of programs is growing: from 3,200 nurses enrolled in DNP and PhD programs in 2003 to more than 13,000 enrolled in 2011. These nurses with doctoral-level degrees are essential in helping fill in the need for trained staff in research and teaching roles. October 2012 data shows that 1,181 teaching vacancies existed in bachelor’s and graduate level programs across the nation and that an additional 103 faculty positions needed to be created to help keep up with the student enrollment demands. The bulk of these teaching vacancies had a requirement for a doctoral degree. The good news is that the types of programs available to nurses to help them advance their education continue to grow: even now, some 77 direct bachelor’s-to-doctoral degree programs exist.


Nursing Faculty Shortage, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, October 2012
Nurse Practitioners, Handmaidens No More, BusinessWeek, March 2012
The Recent Surge in Nurse Employment: Causes and Implications, Health Affairs, July 2009

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Infographics: Nursing Shortage

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