Nursing Shortage: Why There’s a Continued Demand for Nurses (2023)

Nursing Shortage: Why There’s a Continued Demand for Nurses (1)

Registered nursing is one of the top professions for growth. If you’re interested in advancing your nursing career, or are considering joining the profession, it’s important to understand what’s behind the nursing shortage and what opportunities this shortage might create for you.

The nationwide nursing shortage is not a new topic. The American Nurses Association (ANA) estimates an 11% growth rate through 2022. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be 175,000 positions for registered nurses each year through 2029.

When you hear nursing shortage, you may think of practicing nurses. But there’s also a shortage of nurse educators. Nationwide nursing faculty shortages limit nursing program student capacity, making it impossible to keep up with the demands of the nursing shortage (AACN PDF source). The problem has been discussed in a language such as “in the next 20 years.” But now that 2026 is just 5 years away, this poses a significant concern to the healthcare system.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the ANA and the Institute of Medicine have reported the importance of addressing the nursing shortage for more than a decade. A shortage occurs when the demand for nurses available outweighs the number of nurses available to work. As the current nursing shortage deepens, the pressure will intensify for nursing programs to increase the enrollment capacity to fill these vacancies.

The healthcare industry worldwide is undergoing radical transformation based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) initiatives. The nursing profession is at the forefront of this transformation, but the nursing shortage must be addressed.

What is Causing the Nursing Shortage?

There are four main contributors to the nursing shortage:

  1. Retiring nurses or those choosing to leave the profession
  2. The aging population necessitates increasing the level of care patients require
  3. A nursing faculty shortage capping pre-licensure admission capacity
  4. Nursing burnout

According to AACN, the average age of the nursing workforce is 50 years old. Whereas this is not retirement age, today’s healthcare with emerging technologies (i.e., computerized charting, barcode medication administration) coupled with the rising acuity of patients increases the mental and physical demands required of practicing nurses today impacting a nurse’s decision to retire at an earlier age than other professions. The notable increase in nurses taking early retirement reduces an already depleted nursing workforce.

Nursing is a knowledge-intensive profession built upon years of experiences, on-the-job training and invaluable clinical reasoning skills. The ANA estimates that 1 million nurses will retire between now and 2030. Not only is the profession expected to lose a large number of nurses, but when experienced nurses leave, healthcare organizations are left to mitigate the threat of lost knowledge. Nurses will leave with the critical nursing experience and knowledge they have accumulated. This leaves enormous shoes for new graduate nurses to fill.

A second cause impacting the nursing shortage is that people are living longer due to advancing medical science. The U.S. has the largest number of Americans over the age of 65. As the population ages, the number of health conditions, chronic illnesses and co-morbidities requiring healthcare services grow. These increasing healthcare needs require healthcare organizations to increase nursing staff to provide quality care safely.

A third contributor is the pre-licensure nursing education capacity. There is a direct link between the nursing shortage and nursing education. According to the AACN, nursing schools in the United States turned away approximately 80,000 qualified applicants due to an inadequate number of faculty, clinical sites, academic space and budget. According to the Higher Ed Jobs, to date, there are currently over 1,000 open nurse educator positions with 500 of these vacancies at the associate degree level.

A final contributor crucial to highlight is nurse burnout. With the nursing shortage and the complexity of healthcare needs, many nurses are overworked and emotionally exhausted. Nurses are choosing to leave the profession. If the nursing shortage is not addressed, nurses will continue to leave the profession due to burnout. If nurse burnout is not addressed, the United States will continue to deal with a nursing shortage. It is a cycle that needs to be broken. Many statewide initiatives are taking place to address practicing nurse and nurse educator shortages as they are linked and cannot resolve without the other.

Is There a Nursing Shortage Worldwide?

The nursing shortage is not just an issue in the United States, but also a global problem. Globally, nurses comprise half the healthcare workforce. It is estimated that there will be a nurse shortage of 7 million globally by 2030 (Centre for Health & Social Care Research PDF source). Just as mentioned above, the same causes are impacting the profession of nursing worldwide.

When Did the Nursing Shortage Begin?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the nursing profession has dealt with periodic nursing shortages; however, shortages have always been resolved until the past decade. With many nurses near retirement age, the increasing number of older adults with chronic disease, and the inability to train nurses fast enough, the nursing shortage will only grow. Healthcare organizations and academic nursing programs must align in order to address the nursing shortage.

What States Have a Nursing Shortage?

Not every state is experiencing a nursing shortage. Nurses tend to work in urban areas, leaving rural areas facing more significant shortages. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the shortage of specialized nurses around the country. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed with the acute needs of patients ill with COVID-19, and nurses with specialized skillsets are in high demand. While there is a nursing shortage nationwide, it is interesting to see the differences between states. You might think that it could be rural vs. Urban areas, but that is not the case. According to a Supply and Demand Summary by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, North Dakota, Washington D.C. and Rhode Island have the highest concentration of nurses (Georgetown University PDF source).

In contrast, California, Georgia and Nevada have the lowest. California, Texas and New York are reported to have the highest number of nurse vacancies.

What Types of Nurses are Most in Demand?

According to a quick search via Indeed®, there are vacancies in every unit, department and specialty across the nursing industry. The important takeaway is that not only is there a shortage of practicing nurses in all fields, but also a shortage of academic nurses. According to the NLN Biennial Survey, 43% of pre-licensure nursing programs report the number one reason for the inability to expand enrollment is a lack of nursing faculty (NLN PDF source). To practice as a nurse educator, a nurse must have a graduate degree in nursing. Just as a pre-licensure nursing programs have difficulty increasing capacity due to limited faculty, graduate nursing programs have the same issue.

Where Are Most Nursing Jobs Located?

As mentioned above, there are numerous nursing vacancies within every state across America. The nursing shortage has allowed nurses to be employed nearly anywhere, in their specialty of choice. In a strategic move, the National Licensure of State Board of Nursing (NCSBN) has introduced the National Compact License (NLC), which allows nurses in a compact state to practice physically or remotely in any other compact state without having to apply for another license.

The NCSBN reports that approximately 2 million nurses live in a compact state and can practice in other NLC states. Currently, 34 states have elected to partake in the NLC. This is a huge step forward in helping close the nursing shortage gap for both practicing nurses and nurse educators as this allows nurses to cross state lines, participate in telemedicine outside of their state and teach as a nurse educator via distance learning.

What Does This Mean for You?

Nurses make up the largest sector of all healthcare professions and have a seat at the table to shape healthcare delivery. As the current nursing shortage deepens, the demand for versatile, competent nurses will continue to rise. With that being said, there is not a better profession to join than the nursing profession. Johnson & Johnson, an advocate for the advancement of the nursing profession, believe that nurses are uniquely positioned to change the trajectory of healthcare.

Nursing is a career in which your ideas can change the lives of others, and even healthcare itself. With more than 90 nursing specialties, nurses have choices, challenges and numerous opportunities to take on more responsibilities, and the salary is commensurate with education and experience. With an advanced degree, nurses can also become independent healthcare providers, such as a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist, or leaders in their field as clinical nurse leaders, nurse administrators and nurse educators. There are many options for nurseslooking for a more advanced role within their profession. These are exciting times and with an advancing profession, the best time to be a nurse.

Dr. Crissy Hunter, DNP, RN, CHSE, CNE has been a nurse for over 20 years. She has taught undergraduate and graduate nursing full time for the past 12 years. Currently, she serves as course coordinator for the Master of Science in Nursing nurse educator core courses (Teaching and Learning, Assessment and Evaluation and Curriculum Design). Additionally, Dr. Hunter is the coordinator, advisor and faculty for the nurse educator capstone experience with students and preceptors. Dr. Hunter holds a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from American Sentinel University and multiple specialty certifications in nursing education.


Nursing Shortage: Why There’s a Continued Demand for Nurses? ›

Have you wondered: Why are nurses in demand? The answer goes back to the looming nursing shortage. Some of the factors that have influenced the shortage are an aging patient population and workforce, the rise of chronic conditions and nursing instructor shortages.

Why will nurses always be in demand? ›

Have you wondered: Why are nurses in demand? The answer goes back to the looming nursing shortage. Some of the factors that have influenced the shortage are an aging patient population and workforce, the rise of chronic conditions and nursing instructor shortages.

Why is the nursing shortage important? ›

Staffing Ratios

Appropriate staffing levels will decrease errors, increase patient satisfaction, and improve nurse retention rates. Nursing shortages lead to errors, higher morbidity, and mortality rates.

What forces go into play as demand for nursing goes up? ›

One of the reasons for the growing demand is due to changing demographics; older nurses are retiring in large numbers, creating thousands of job openings. Another factor is the Affordable Care Act, which expands health insurance coverage to millions of job openings.

Why did the nursing shortage start? ›

The Beginning of the Shortage

This is exactly what happened in the mid-1930s, when several technological, economic, and health care-related events combined to increase the demand for registered nurses and to lay the groundwork for a shortage.

Why are nurses more in demand than doctors? ›

The population is aging rapidly.

Doctors will rely on their nurses even more than they do now to help with patient care. Moreover, additional outpatient clinics and other medical facilities are being built to accommodate more patients, which will require more nurses.

How in demand are nurses right now? ›

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Projections 2021-2031, the Registered Nursing (RN) workforce is expected to grow by 6% over the next decade. The RN workforce is expected to grow from 3.1 million in 2021 to 3.3 million in 2031, an increase of 195,400 nurses.

How can we solve the nursing shortage? ›

  1. 1 | Listening to Nurses Concerns. ...
  2. 2 | Prioritizing Workplace Culture Increases Retention. ...
  3. 3 | Prioritizing Nurse Retention Levels. ...
  4. 4 | Increasing Diversity in the Nursing Student Body. ...
  5. 5 | Addressing the Need for More Nurse Educators. ...
  6. 6 | Using Innovation to Address the Nursing Shortage.

How can we fix the shortage of healthcare workers? ›

The single most important way to reverse that is to support and expand partnerships between universities and community health care settings to develop additional residencies for graduating medical students as well as clinical training opportunities for nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, and others.

Where is the highest nursing shortage? ›

California has the worst nursing shortage in the United States. It's predicted that by 2030, California will be in need of over 44,000 nurses. Other states with major hospital staff shortages include New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Arizona.

What are two causes for the expected increase in demand for RNs? ›

The aging population necessitates increasing the level of care patients require. A nursing faculty shortage capping pre-licensure admission capacity. Nursing burnout.

What new demands do nurses face today? ›

Here are some of the challenges nurses face in their profession:
  • Long shifts. Nurses often work 10- or 12-hour shifts. ...
  • Changing schedules. ...
  • Emotional involvement. ...
  • Physical demands. ...
  • Exposure to illness and chemicals. ...
  • Lack of nurses. ...
  • Changing technology. ...
  • Poor treatment from patients.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the four challenges facing the nursing workforce in the United States? ›

Four challenges face the nursing workforce of today and tomorrow: the aging of the baby boom generation, the shortage and uneven distribution of physicians, the accelerating rate of registered nurse retirements, and the uncertainty of health care reform.

Why are so many leaving nursing? ›

Another recent report by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found about 100,000 registered nurses left the profession since 2020. More than 600,000 intend to leave by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement.

What workplace factor has been found to contribute to the nursing shortage? ›

Pay Disparities. Nurses are paid less than other professionals, contributing to the nursing shortage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2021 was $77,600.

Why is there a high turnover rate in nursing? ›

Nurses work in a fast-paced environment, providing patient care, reassuring family members, and keeping up with evidence-based practices and procedures. That level of stress can leave many healthcare organizations with a high nurse turnover rate.

Who makes more money than nurses? ›

While both nurse practitioners and doctors can enjoy the benefit of great incomes, doctors make almost twice as much as nurse practitioners. In fact, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, doctors typically earn an average annual salary of about $200,000 or more.

Why is nurse the hardest job? ›

According to one study, job-related stress related to nurses because they had to perform non-nursing activities consistently. These nurses deal with various patients, and they also struggle to feel in control of the patient outcomes. They don't get to see patients heal, so it can seem a bit deflating at times.

What do you think the future of the nursing workforce will look like in 50 years? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nursing job growth of 12 percent through 2028—much faster than the average occupation. That's around 200,000 new RN positions that will need to be filled every year through 2026.

What nurses are in most demand? ›

What Types of Nursing Jobs Are Most in Demand?
  • Critical care nurse.
  • Nurse practitioner.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist.
  • Clinical nurse specialist.
  • Oncology nurse.
  • Pediatric nurse.
  • Public health nurse.
  • Telemetry nurse.
Mar 28, 2023

Which state has the most nurses? ›

California contains the most professionally active registered nurses in the U.S. with 337,738 RNs, according to a ranking from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What is the future outlook for nurses? ›

Nursing jobs outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for nursing employees may grow by as much as 6% between 2021 and 2031. This job growth is a little faster than the growth for all occupations in the United States, which is estimated to be 5% from 2021 to 2031.

What is the cause of the healthcare shortage? ›

One of the main causes is the aging population: both patients and health care workers. As the general population ages their need for medical care increases, but as aging doctors, nurses, and health care workers retire or leave the workforce, they are not being sufficiently replaced by new ones.

Why are healthcare workers quitting? ›

Higher acuity levels, increased patient volumes, and continued staffing challenges are key contributors — all of which prompt increased turnover, drive decisions to leave the profession, and pose care quality and safety risks.

Why are healthcare jobs in demand? ›

Increased regulation and decreased insurance reimbursements are causing many physicians to reduce their work hours, which will increase the necessity for more physicians and more nurses in the years to come.

Why is there a nurse shortage 2023? ›

There are a number of reasons for the nursing shortage, extending from education to burnout to early retirement. With an increased demand for healthcare services, nurses need more support than ever to guarantee a better future in nursing.

What are the 3 biggest causes of nurse turnover? ›

  • RNs suffer from a lack of role clarity and low sense of control over job performance. ...
  • Nurses suffer from poor communication with management around critical issues. ...
  • RNs do not receive adequate recognition or rewards for accomplishments.

What is the average age of a nurse? ›

Average Age Of Nurses

The average age of a registered nurse in the United States is 44, though this may change as the demand for nurses increases.

What can hospitals do to increase nurse supply and retention rates? ›

10 Ways to Support Nurses and Raise Nurse Retention Rates
  • 1 | Advocate for the Change You Want. ...
  • 2 | Increase Access for Nurses to Learn New Skills. ...
  • 3 | Offer Emotional Wellness and Mental Health Training to Nurses. ...
  • 4 | Support a National Mandated Staffing Ratio in Hospitals. ...
  • 5 | Increase Nurse Base Pay.

What are new nurses lacking? ›

The authors state that new graduate nurses are not fully prepared for practice due to “gaps in nursing practice … attributed to ineffective communication, the complexity of the clinical environment, lack of knowledge about patient care, and lack of experience working in teams” (Dabrow-Woods & Stegman, 2020).

What do new nurses struggle with the most? ›

Performance anxiety, fear of making mistakes, lack of confidence in nursing skills, communicating with doctors, exhaustion from workload demands, and having the responsibility of your own patients can be a lot to handle in your first year.

What is the outlook for nurses in the next 10 years? ›

Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 203,200 openings for registered nurses are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What are the effects of nursing staff shortage? ›

Nursing shortages can result in:
  • Increased nurse-to-patient ratios.
  • Undue burden on nursing staff.
  • Delays in interventions and medications.
  • Potential medication errors.
  • Potential risks including healthcare-associated infections, pressure injuries, and falls.

What is the largest profession in healthcare? ›

Nursing is the nation's largest healthcare profession, with nearly 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 84.1% are employed in nursing.

Why do nurses divorce so much? ›

Being a nurse is a high stress occupation, so it is not shocking that many marriages among nurses don't last. Trying to juggle family and highly demanding nursing shifts leads to high rates of divorce. That's true even if the other spouse also works in the healthcare field.

Will nursing ever get easier? ›

Nursing school will have semesters that are easier than others. The good news is that the longer you are in nursing school, the easier it gets. The coursework may remain about the same, but it will get easier due to: The fact that you'll be used to it after a semester or two and you'll know what it takes to succeed.

Why is nursing school so draining? ›

Why is nursing school so hard? The top 6 challenges of earning a BSN include the rigorous curriculum, fast pace, need for multitasking, time commitment, personal sacrifices, and NCLEX preparation. However, despite these rigors, it's possible to rise up and master how to succeed in nursing school.

Which nurse is more prone to burnout? ›

Critical care nurses tend to suffer the highest rates of burnout. Critical care specialties include the emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU).

Is burnout causing nursing shortage? ›

About 100,000 nurses left the workforce due to pandemic-related burnout and stress, survey finds. About 100,000 registered nurses in the US left the workplace due to the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the results of a survey published Thursday by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

What are the negative effects of nursing shortages? ›

There are many negative impacts to the nursing shortage. Adverse effects include increased patient mortality, more nurses leaving their positions early, limited patient care as many hospitals are already at capacity with patients and do not have the staff to care for them.

Which nursing specialty has the highest turnover? ›

Behavioral health nursing

Also known as psychiatric and mental health nursing, this specialty consistently tops the charts for high turnover.

When did the nursing shortage begin? ›

The Beginning of the Shortage

This is exactly what happened in the mid-1930s, when several technological, economic, and health care-related events combined to increase the demand for registered nurses and to lay the groundwork for a shortage.

Why is nursing major so popular? ›

Top reasons nurses are in high demand: Better access to health care half a million nurses by the year 2030. Increased emphasis on preventive health care. More individuals suffering from chronic conditions.

Are nurses happy with their career choice? ›

Among the respondents who said they were dissatisfied with their careers, 25% said they would pursue a new nursing path, 21% said they would retire early, and 18% said they would leave the nursing profession altogether.

Why are nurses needed? ›

Nurses are trained to treat the whole patient, not just the immediate injury or illness. They look beyond the symptoms to establish the root of the problem so that they can ensure a patient receives adequate treatment and the resources they need to manage their care outside the hospital.

Why are so many nurses good looking? ›

Firstly, nursing is a caring profession which often requires compassion and empathy, both of which are qualities that many people find attractive in others. Additionally, nurses typically have good hygiene habits and dress professionally, both of which can contribute to an overall positive impression.

What is the hardest nursing major? ›

Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

What major is better than nursing? ›

For those who are interested in more behind-the-scenes work, or who want to explore their options in healthcare, health science is a great alternative major to nursing. A health science degree can lead to many different careers, from a healthcare administrator to medical biller and coder.

Why is the nursing field so competitive? ›

There are not enough nursing schools to meet the demand for nurses and nursing programs are limited to the number of students they can accommodate. Nursing schools receive thousands of applications from qualified applicants, but can only accept a fraction of as many students.

Why do people leave nursing? ›

Another recent report by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found about 100,000 registered nurses left the profession since 2020. More than 600,000 intend to leave by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement.

Which nurses have highest job satisfaction? ›

Happiest Nursing Jobs
  • School Nurse. Nurses in schools are available to help care for students who are presenting with an illness or who require assistance with medication administration for a previously diagnosed condition. ...
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse. ...
  • Case Management Nurse. ...
  • Nurse Educator. ...
  • Parish Nurse. ...
  • Travel Nurse.
Aug 26, 2022

Is nursing a good career for introverts? ›

Can an Introvert Be a Nurse? Introverts can pursue a career in nursing. Whether you're a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or certified nursing assistant (CNA), you'll be well-positioned to apply the skills and character traits you have as an introvert to your everyday work.

Are nurses leaving the profession? ›

Close to a third of nurses nationwide say they are likely to leave the profession for another career due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey from AMN Healthcare shows. This level is up at least seven points since 2021. And the survey found that the ongoing shortage of nurses is likely to continue for years to come.

What state pays nurses the most? ›

In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Why do people trust nurses so much? ›

They are honest in their words, delivery of care, and actions. They are honest in delivering education and answering questions. They do not want to mislead patients—and want the patients to know the facts. But, they have a way of delivering this news or education with compassion and patience.

Is dating a nurse hard? ›

They Are Great Communicators, and Even Better Listeners

As one can imagine, communication is key. This is no different outside of work. If you are offended easily, dating a nurse may not be the greatest idea for you as they are straightforward and do not waste time beating around the bush.


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