A report entitled “Projected Supply, Demand, and Shortages of Registered Nurses: 2000-2020” alleged:

Based on what is known about trends in the supply of Registered Nurses and their anticipated demand, the nursing shortage is expected to grow relatively slowly until 2010, by which time it will have reached 12 percent. At that point, demand will begin to exceed supply at an accelerated rate and by 2015 the shortage, a relatively modest 6 percent in the year 2000, will have almost quadrupled to 20 percent.

American hospitals are in a serious crisis, from large numbers of uninsured patients to spiraling costs, from outlandishly expensive prescription drugs to a severe and dangerous shortage of nurses. Emergency rooms are shutting down, surgeries are delayed and, most disturbing of all, patients are sometimes not getting the critical care they desperately need.

There are many factors behind the nursing shortage. Unlike a generation or two ago, young women with an aptitude for sciences now have a multitude of career opportunities to choose from. Many of the other career choices today involve less stressful and less strenuous work than bedside nursing. Generally speaking, a position with a managed-care company or a pharmaceutical sales job is less physically demanding than nursing.

The need for nurses is often depicted as cyclical in nature. Throughout history, the USA has experienced a series of nursing surpluses and shortages. However, the current nursing shortage has been characterized as being unlike those experienced in the past. Trends of an aging RN/ Registered Nurse workforce and limited supply to fill the impending vacancies are some unique aspects that bring a new dimension to an old problem. Today’s nursing shortage will not be resolved by simply returning to the solutions of yesteryear, and strategies to reduce its impact will have to be more creative and focus on the long-term.

The widely publicized nursing shortage in the United States is largely a result of three factors: the aging population of nurses; the aging population in the U.S.; and a shift in healthcare delivery away from doctors, towards skilled nurses. Also are four major contributors to the nursing shortage in the USA: the aging RN workforce; declining enrollment; changing work climate; and the poor image of nursing.

Solutions to the shortage followed similar themes to the contributing factors and encompassed four main areas: exploring recruitment efforts; exploring retention efforts; improving the image of nursing; and supporting legislation that helps to rectify the shortage.

As new career options grow for women over the past few decades, and fewer women choose to go into nursing, another shortage begins to emerge. All of these factors point to the fact that the nursing shortage won’t be reversed overnight.

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