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Why Is There a Shortage of Nurses?

Four critical factors are contributing to the shortage of nurses in the United States right now. Each one is having an impact on this problem. All of them have connections with changes in the population and shifting career options.

1. As the Baby Boom generation ages, there is a growing need for nurses to provide care. Between the years of 1946 and 1964, there were over 77 million babies born in the United States. Starting in 2011, they are reaching retirement age. The same bulge is happening in other countries around the world. As this large population group ages, the need for nurses becomes critical. Hospitals and nursing facilities have a need for nurses but do not have enough qualified candidates.

2. Fewer people are entering the nursing profession. In the past, women in particular had fewer career choices. Nursing was one of the few available to them. However, that is not the case today. Women have many more options and fewer women choose to enter the nursing field. That brought a dramatic shift in the percentage of women who would choose nursing as a profession. While men are entering the field in record numbers, that increase is not offsetting the loss of women in the profession.

3. Many nurses working today are aging and will be retiring in the next few years. Since the nursing profession is no longer a big choice for women, the average age of registered nurses is 43 years. Almost half of the registered nurses in the United States are due to retire in the next 15 years. The women who choose to enter the profession are often older than those in previous generations. That means they have a shorter working life as a nurse. All of these factors are contributing to the looming problems with a nursing shortage.

4. There is a growing demand for skilled and specialty nurses. In the past, most nurses focused on providing general nursing care to patients. However, technology is taking the place of many traditional nursing skills. In addition, hospital stays are usually much shorter than in the past. Today, with the Baby Boom generation, the need for geriatric nurses and other specializations grows.

5. There is a lack of nursing educators and facilities. Thousand of qualified candidates for nursing education cannot find a place to receive that education. There is a large shortage of qualified educators. Many nursing schools turn away students each year.