The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment levels to meet the rising demand for nursing care. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is concerned about the shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) and is working with schools, policy makers, kindred organizations, and the media to bring attention to this health care crisis. AACN is working to enact legislation, identify strategies, and form collaborations to address the nursing shortage.
Influences of the Trend
Nursing School Enrollments
Though AACN reported a 7.6% enrollment increase in entry-level baccalaureate programs in nursing in 2006 over the previous year, this increase is not sufficient to meet the projected demand for nurses. HRSA officials stated in an April 2006 report that "to meet the projected growth in demand for RN services, the U.S. must graduate approximately 90 percent more nurses from US nursing programs." According to AACN's report on 2006-2007 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 42,866 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2006 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. Almost three quarters (71.0%) of the nursing schools responding to the 2006 survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into entry-level nursing programs. According to a study released by the Southern Regional Board of Education (SREB) in February 2002, a serious shortage of nursing faculty was documented in 16 SREB states and the District of Columbia. Survey findings show that the combination of faculty vacancies (432) and newly budgeted positions (350) points to a 12% shortfall in the number of nurse educators needed. Unfilled faculty positions, resignations, projected retirements, and the shortage of students being prepared for the faculty role pose a threat to the nursing education workforce over the next five years. Aging Population
According to the July 2001 report, Nursing Workforce: Emerging Nurse Shortages Due to Multiple Factors (GAO-01-944), a serious shortage of nurses is expected in the future as demographic pressures influence both supply and demand. The future demand for nurses is expected to increase dramatically as the baby boomers reach their 60s and beyond. According to a May 2001 report, Who Will Care for Each of Us?: America's Coming Health Care Crisis, released by the Nursing Institute at the University of Illinois College of Nursing, the ratio of potential caregivers to the people most likely to need care, the elderly population, will decrease by 40% between 2010 and 2030. Demographic changes may limit access to health care unless the number of nurses and other caregivers grows in proportion to the rising elderly population. Job Burnout
In the March-April 2005 issue of Nursing Economic$, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues found that more than 75% of RNs believe the nursing shortage presents a major problem for the quality of their work life, the quality of patient care, and the amount of time nurses can spend with patients. Looking forward, almost all surveyed nurses see the shortage in the future as a catalyst for increasing stress on nurses (98%), lowering patient care quality (93%) and causing nurses to leave the profession (93%). According to a study in the October 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association, nurses reported greater job dissatisfaction and emotional exhaustion when they were responsible for more patients than they can safely care for. Researcher Dr. Linda Aiken concluded that "failure to retain nurses...