August 16, 2018  |  Purdue University Global

Nurses are the backbone of the health care industry. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), nursing is the single largest profession in the entire U.S. health care workforce. Without registered nurses, the health care system would collapse.

HRSA predicts that by the year 2030, each state’s supply and demand will range anywhere from a shortage of 44,500 FTEs (full-time equivalents) in California to a surplus of 53,700 FTEs in Florida. Seven states are projected to have a significant shortage of RNs by the year 2030 if the current level of health care is to be maintained. To adequately address nursing employment needs, the health care industry must recognize and address challenges.

What's Affecting the Nursing Shortage in the U.S.?

Just like any industry, many factors impact the supply and demand in the health care sector.

Aging of the Baby Boomers

Based on data from the United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2016, there were 74 million baby boomers—those ages 52 to 70—in this country. This sizable generation outnumbers both Generation X and millennials.

As the baby boomers age they increasingly require health care services. The sheer size of the generation’s aging population could be a considerable burden on the health care system if the nursing shortage isn’t solved.

Retiring Baby Boomer Nurses

AMN Healthcare’s 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses revealed that the number of baby boomer RNs reached 1.26 million in 2008. However, since 2012, roughly 60,000 per year have left the health care workforce. In the 2017 survey, 73% of baby boomer nurses stated they plan to retire within 3 or fewer years. This increase in retiring nurses will create a critical lack of nurses within a short period.

Increased Prevalence of Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases have grown among individuals in the U.S. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, nearly half of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and this number is steadily growing. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory diseases, hypertension, obesity, and arthritis are all chronic diseases that can lead to hospitalization and long-term disability. This steady growth in chronic diseases increases the need for health care services, especially from nurses.

Seven States Facing Critical Nursing Shortages

HRSA identified seven states that will feel the brunt of the nursing shortage in the coming years. Of these states, four will have a deficit of 10,000 or more FTEs.

By 2030, seven states will have the following shortfalls of registered nurses:

  • California: 44,500
  • Texas: 15,900
  • New Jersey: 11,400
  • South Carolina: 10,400
  • Alaska: 5,400
  • Georgia: 2,200
  • South Dakota: 1,900

The scarcity of RNs could have a devastating impact on the health care system. There needs to be a push to take a deeper look at this potential crisis before it becomes a reality.

What Can States Do to Combat Shortfalls?

Each state’s health care industry leadership and government need to take a close look at ways to attract more nurses. Some recommendations industry professionals and legislators have discussed include:

  • Granting nurses more authority by changing state laws
  • Increasing access to more qualified nurses at the state level by joining the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC)
  • Providing more flexibility in scheduling and more career advancement opportunities at facilities
  • Becoming a Magnet-recognized hospital

Additionally, national foundations, other health care industry players, and educational institutions have a role to play in the form of:

  • Providing more access to grants and scholarships
  • Fully staffing educational institutions to ensure qualified applicants don’t get wait-listed
  • Encouraging more people to consider nursing as a career.

Opportunities for Nurses and Nursing Students

In an effort to recruit and retain nurses, employers across the country are offering substantial financial and non-financial perks and incentives. According to numerous reports, such as this CNN Money article and this post from AMN Healthcare, some incentives include:

  • Signing bonuses
  • Relocation allowances
  • Free housing
  • Retention bonuses
  • School loan forgiveness programs
  • Mortgage down payment assistance programs
  • College tuition for employees and their children

In addition, health care systems are finding other ways to attract and retain nurses. This 2016 article from Becker’s Healthcare Review outlines how five health systems are using incentives to fill the nursing shortage.

Nurses—and those considering becoming a nurse—can secure some considerable benefits as a result of the nursing shortage.

Earn a Nursing Degree Online With Purdue University Global

Nursing is a rewarding profession that fulfills a passion to serve and care for others. To explore the field of nursing or to advance your nursing career, learn more about earning a nursing degree online with Purdue Global or request more information.

Download Our Free Ebook to Learn More

To read more about the nursing shortage in the U.S., download our free ebook, “Nurses Needed: Examining the U.S. Nursing Shortage, Solutions, and Opportunities.” It presents the causes of and possible solutions to the nursing shortage in more detail, and it highlights the numerous opportunities available to those seeking to establish or advance in a nursing career.


About the Author

Purdue University Global

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