The Great American Nursing Shortage


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Shortage of Nurses in America

Quote from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing:

“The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.” (

Vacancy in Nursing Facilities (

  • Total shortage of 70,000 direct care staff positions, an increase of 16.8% from 2010 to 2012
  • RN shortage = 9,800, up 21%
  • LPN shortage = 12,900, up 13.2%
  • CNA shortage = 47,300, up 17%

The Aging Nursing Population (

One of the main reasons for the nursing shortage in America is the aging population of nursing professionals. As more nurses near the age of retirement, there are not enough young nurses to fill in the gaps.

The Limits of Nursing Education Programs (

Another cause of the nursing shortage is a lack of sufficient nursing programs for up-and-coming nurses. College applicants are being turned away from school because the facilities don’t have the staff to support them.

  • In 2012, 79,659 nursing school applicants were turned away due to “insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints” (data in resource linked above but pulled from data reports here: —- have to pay for)
  • “Almost two-thirds of the nursing schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs”

A Loss in Interest with Age ( pg 13 and 14)

As registered nurses get older, they are less likely to stay in the nursing profession, even though older nurses make up the majority of the current nursing population.

  • 88.1% of RNs under 25 are employed full time
  • 68.3% of RNs 50-54 (biggest age group) are employed full time, with 12.5% not employed in nursing at all
  • The following are full time employment stats for older age groups: 65% for 55-59, 47.6% for 60-64, 21.6% for 65-69, about 25% for 70 and older
  • “Among nurses 55 and older, 76,915 intend to leave the nursing profession within 3 years; another 54,539 intend to leave their current nursing jobs and are unsure if they will remain in nursing afterward.
  • 17% of nurses between 60-64 plan to leave nursing within 3 years

Difference between Licenses and Employment

Yet another issue is the fact that America has a large number of licensed nurses who are not currently employed in nursing. License stats:

Fighting an Aging Population

The population is projected to grow at a much faster rate than the nursing profession, which may leave a lot of people in the future without access to proper healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act Is Changing the Nursing Environment

The Affordable Care Act is shifting the work environment for nurses, which may result in a lack of job satisfaction. The lower the satisfaction is, the less likely nurses are to stick with their careers.

The Never-Ending Cycle

The shortage in nursing in America is causing current nurses to do more than they have to, which results in lower job satisfaction. Ultimately, the shortage may lead to an even bigger shortage.

  • “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.” (
  • “Nurses in hospitals with 8:1 patient-to-nurse ratios would be 2.29 times as likely as nurses with 4:1 patient-to-nurse ratios to show high emotional exhaustion” Short version: Nurses in shortage areas are twice as likely to get exhausted on the job (
  • Dr. Linda Aiken concluded that “failure to retain nurses contributes to avoidable patient deaths.” (