August 16, 2018  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated June 7, 2023

Nurses are the backbone of the health care industry. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, nursing is the single largest profession in the entire U.S. health care workforce. Without registered nurses, the health care system would collapse.

Nationally, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects:

  • A shortage of 78,610 full-time equivalent (FTE) RNs in 2025
  • A shortage of 63,720 FTE RNs in 2030
  • An excess supply of approximately 16,180 FTE RNs in 2035

Whereas there is an overall projected surplus of RNs by 2035, several states are still expecting shortages. The 10 states with the largest projected shortages in 2035 and their projected supply deficiencies are:

  1. Washington, 26%
  2. Georgia, 21%
  3. California, 18%
  4. Oregon, 16%
  5. Michigan, 15%
  6. Idaho, 15%
  7. Louisiana, 13%
  8. North Carolina, 13%
  9. New Jersey, 12%
  10. South Carolina, 11%

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

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of December 2019, there were 73 million baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — in this country. 

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

Baby boomer nurses are retiring in large numbers, creating a lack of nurses in the U.S.:

Increased Prevalence of Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases have grown among individuals in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of 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.

What Can States Do to Combat Shortfalls?

Each state’s health care industry leadership and government needs to take a close look at how 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 Nursing 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 article from the Houston Chronicle, some incentives include:

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

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 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.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

Filed in:


Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global does not guarantee employment placement or career advancement. Actual outcomes vary by geographic area, previous work experience and opportunities for employment.