Nursing Shortage that Looms Over America

The nursing shortage that runs rampant across America is not slowing anytime soon. With the generation of baby boomers that are now coming into retirement age, the number of healthcare providers needed increases. The US population is projected to grow at least 18% over two decades in the 21st century, while the population of those sixty-five and older is expected to increase three times that rate. The current shortfall of nurses is projected at over 1 million by the year 2020. The need to keep the number of nurses growing is crucial since they are the forefront of patient care in every medical facility. The nursing shortage has increased the amount of nursing responsibilities has increased and it may lead to patients not getting the quality level of care they need as a result. The shortage has the following effects on the job and in healthcare facilities:

  • Increases nurses' patient's loads
  • Increases risk of spreading infection to patients and staffs
  • Increases the risk for error
  • Increases poor work environment, which decreases job satisfaction
  • Increases risk for occupational injury
  • Increases nursing staff turnover
  • Increased deaths


There are several factors that contribute to the nursing shortage beyond aging baby boomers. One major factor is the lack of qualified nurse educators. The lack of educators means less nursing students are enrolled and that mean less nursing students are graduating. To help the nursing faculty shortage, more RNs need to go back to school for their MSN and Doctorate degrees. Many states are providing funds and compensation for RNs who go back to school and become nurse educators in return. Funding has been approved nationwide for more nursing faculty, nursing scholarships, nurse retention, improving work conditions, and nurse recruitment.

A second factor affecting the shortage is the average age of nurses is increasing and the number of applicants to BSN programs are decreasing. While nurses are starting to retire, the number of new nurses qualified enough to replace the retirees are not keeping up. There are many nursing positions, such as those in emergency departments or intensive care units that require the expertise of a BSN or MSN program. This often prevents hospitals from hiring Associate Degree RNs for the positions. Furthermore, new opportunities became available for general nursing practice, which further drains the number of nurses available for the acute care settings.

A few complaints nurses encompass due to shortage are frequent schedule changes, overloads, shift work, lack of appreciation by superiors and colleagues, as well as lack of childcare. Cost-cutting is still a priority for hospitals which nurses' endure increased patient loads, and are rarely consulted when recommending changes. Eventually, nurses become frustrated with the health care system as a whole and switch careers. The major reason why nurses plan to leave the field is because of the working conditions. There are a number of thoughts the nation has created to fight the shortage. Here are a few ways many states are attacking the nursing shortage:

  • The travel nurse, which is a specialized sub-set of the staffing agency industry that has evolved to serve the needs of hospitals affected by the increasing nursing shortage.
  • There is now a nursing recruitment initiative and nursing workforce development program for residents of the United States originally from foreign countries, who were professional nurses in their countries but are no longer in that profession in the United States. This initiative helps these nurses get back into the nursing profession helping them with credentials and passing the nursing board exams.
  • Retention and recruitment are important to a long-term solution to the nursing shortage. If an employee is treated well, they will be the best recruiters for that facility or area.
  • Federal funding is distributed to advance nursing education, scholarships, grants, diversity programs, loan repayment programs, nursing faculty programs, and comprehensive geriatric education.
  • Programs for emotional support, education, encouragement and counseling are available and encouraged in every nursing environment to increase a positive work environment.


Overall, America and the medical educational institutions are doing what they can to help decrease the shortage. There is no immediate solution, however, our government and hospitals understand the crisis at hand. Each state has or is in the process of building plans to educate and train more nurses for the future.