Twenty-six years ago, the annual National Nurses Week was born in the U.S. Beginning every year on May 6 and concluding May 12 (the birthday of rock-star nurse Florence Nightingale), the week is designed to pay tribute to the vital contributions of America’s registered nurses (RNs).
It’s been said that “constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon.” Nurses have always been the heart of the medical profession (pun intended), and the importance of their nurturing care under what can be extremely adverse conditions can’t be overestimated.
But these days, RNs can be hard for employers to attract and hire. Here, we’ll explain why nurses are in short supply. We’ll also offer tips for improving your nursing recruitment strategies, inspired by an Indeed survey of 1,050 U.S. nursing job seekers in 2018.
Healthcare is booming, but where are the nurses?
Healthcare, as an industry, is exploding. Compared to all other jobs posted in 2018 on Indeed by industry, healthcare had the largest percentage. Not only is the healthcare industry America’s largest employer, nursing is now the largest profession within the U.S. healthcare sector.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that more than 200,000 new RN positions will be created every year from 2016 to 2026. Along with mathematicians and genetic counselors, RN is among the fastest-growing jobs with the highest pay in the U.S. The RN position is among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026, expanding 15% by 2026. Today, there are 4.7 million nurses in the U.S.
But it’s not enough. By 2022, there will be more unfilled RN jobs than in any other profession: An additional 1.1 million RNs will be needed to avoid a shortage, with some states hit harder than others.
Why the nursing supply can’t meet the demand
Several factors are contributing to the nursing supply-and-demand imbalance:
The population is aging. The number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double by 2060, reaching nearly 100 million. With more Americans now living longer, chronic illnesses will inevitably put a growing burden on our healthcare system — hence, an increased need for RNs.
The nursing population is aging, too — and retiring. The average age of employed RNs increased from 42.7 years in 2000 to 44.6 years in 2010. The 2017 National Nursing Workforce Study puts the average age even higher, at 51. Consequently, about 1 million RNs are expected to retire by 2030.
Nursing schools can’t keep up. In 2018, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants due to insufficient faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical instructors and budget to accommodate them. As a result, the supply of newly qualified RNs is out of alignment with the growing demand.
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