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What the Nursing Shortage Means for You

For years the healthcare system in the U.S. has been dealing with various nursing shortages. Yet this current shortage is different due to its multiple factors. With more nurses retiring, an increased demand for nurse practitioner roles, the graying of America, and educational blockages, supply is simply not keeping up with demand. Bottom line: There is a nursing shortage, and the problem may only be getting worse.

Why Is There a Nursing Shortage?

There are many reasons for this nursing shortage: The Baby Boomer population is aging, older nurses are retiring, our healthcare system is becoming more complex, people are living longer and there are waiting lists at many nursing schools. One of the biggest challenges is the population shift of older adults. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be 65 years of age or older, and the expected U.S. senior citizen population will outnumber children under the age of 18. An aging population means an increased demand for healthcare.

Faculty shortages at nursing schools are also a major contributor to the nursing shortage. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from nursing programs every year due to a lack of resources. As nursing instructors retire or seek higher paying jobs, the faculty shortage increases, resulting in remaining faculty juggling classroom instruction and clinicals. This shortage can have serious repercussions for patient care and impact certain geographic or specialty areas more than others.

Are There Specific Areas With a Shortage?

There are multiple areas with a nursing shortage. Here are just two:

The Rural Dilemma: Currently, the biggest nursing shortage is in rural areas. Recruiting talent to rural areas can be a challenge, as urban areas typically feature higher pay, larger and more prestigious facilities, and a more active social scene. Some facilities depend on travel nurses to fill temporary nursing shortages. This is lucrative for many young nurses, as pay is often higher than average, and the range of experiences and opportunities is unique to travel nursing.

Demand for BSN Nurses: Aging patients have complex needs requiring nurses to possess a higher level of knowledge and expertise to care for them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the RN field is expected to grow 12% from 3.0 million in 2018 to 3.4 million in 2028. Although the number of BSN-prepared graduates increases every year, the need for nurses with a BSN continues to grow.

Benefits of the Shortage for Nurses

For nurses, this shortage can be beneficial. This may be in the form of increased pay, bonuses, school benefits, leadership opportunities or just more appreciation.

Financial: Employers often have different strategies for how they handle their lack of nurses. Some use travel or agency nurses, and some choose to pay their own staff emergency "shortage" funds or bonuses in specialty areas. One neonatal intensive care nurse in Dallas, Texas, recently reported receiving triple time-and-a-half to working on a short-staffed Sunday. 

School Benefits: Tuition reimbursement, scholarships and loan forgiveness programs are all popular incentives extended to nurses during a nursing shortage. One such program is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, which recruits new nurse graduates to work in medically underserved areas in return for student loan forgiveness. Through this program, nurses may work for up to three years and have up to 85% of their student loan balance forgiven. Other programs include state-specific loan forgiveness programs, the National Health Service Corps and facility-specific tuition waiver programs

Leadership Openings: As older nurses retire, they take their leadership skills and experience with them. The Journal of Nursing Regulation estimates that between 2017 and 2030, over one million RNs will retire, leaving significant gaps in experienced management. Some leadership or management positions require a BSN or Master of Science in nursing (MSN).

Appreciation: An article in American Nurse notes that labor shortages often increases appreciation for nurses. Shortages also shine a light on marginal performers and put greater emphasis on mentorship and employee retention. Employers are trying to make the workload more manageable, create a healthy working environment and foster job satisfaction, as they cannot afford staff turnover.

What Are the Benefits of a BSN in a Shortage?

A BSN program expands your knowledge and provides more in-depth information about professional skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking and leadership. These professional skills can help prepare you to take on a different job or a leadership role within your organization. An online RN to BSN program may be the perfect next step in your career.

Learn more about Austin Peay State University's online RN to BSN program.


NCBI: Nursing Shortage: Myth or Fact?

Journal of Nursing Regulation: Four Challenges Facing the Nursing Workforce in the United States

United States Census: Older People Projected to Outnumber Children

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Shortage What Is a Travel Nurse?

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses 4 Ways to Get Help Paying Your Nursing School Tuition Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program

Health Resources and Services Administration: National Health Service Corps

American Nurse: Advantages of a Nursing Shortage

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