There will always be a need for nurses, but that need is growing exponentially. Between the years 2020 and 2030, more than 276,000 job openings are expected for registered nurses across the United States. The question many people are asking, though, is do we have enough nurses to fill the job demand? Periodically, for years, the United States has been up against a nursing shortage – and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it to headlines again.
It’s no secret that, when the spread of COVID-19 hit the United States, hospitals were scrambling to keep up with the influx of patients. The number of patients needing treatment often exceeded the number of beds available, in many cases because there was not enough staff or resources to help. The nurses who were available worked – and are still working – tirelessly to treat those in need. We recognize these workers as our healthcare heroes. However, at the same time, we recognize that the nursing shortage is still occurring within our healthcare system.
In fact, in September 2021, the American Nurses Association (ANA) wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting that they declare the current nursing shortage a national crisis. The ANA wrote, “Our nation must have a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness to administer COVID-19 vaccines, educate communities, and provide safe patient care for millions of Americans. We cannot be a healthy nation until we commit to address underlying, chronic nursing workforce challenges that have persisted for decades.”
Nurses are an integral part of the healthcare system. When hospitals and healthcare facilities have a sufficient number of nurses staffed, there is greater patient safety, lower mortality rates, and improved patient outcomes overall. For this reason, it is important for us to understand the nursing shortage and what it means for Americans as well as aspiring registered nurses.
What is the Nursing Shortage?
A nursing shortage means that there is a high demand for registered nurses, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fulfill the demand. This means we are lacking skilled nurses who can provide critical and essential care for patients in need.
Today, there are over three million registered nurses working in the United States, making nursing one of the largest employment sectors in the country. It is also one of the most in-demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be roughly 194,500 job openings for registered nurses each year, over the next decade. Healthcare facilities are looking for skilled nurses who can meet the increasing demand for patient care. The growing need for patient care is the leading driver of the nursing shortage, combined with nurses retiring and leaving the workforce.
What is Causing the Nursing Shortage?
As noted above, the nursing shortage is being driven by the increasing demand for patient care. Obviously, the introduction of COVID-19 in 2020 led to an increased need for emergency and chronic care. In fact, hospital leaders reported that they needed to increase their workforce by 20 percent during COVID-19 surges – leading them to supplement staff with travel nurses.
However, there are other factors contributing to a growing demand for nurses, including:
- An Aging Baby Boomer Population
The United States’ older population is reaching record numbers, with more adults over age 65 than ever before in the nation’s history. This is because the large Baby Boomer population is reaching retirement age. By 2030, the 65+ population is expected to reach 73 million – that’s up from 41 million back in 2011. Older adults, inherently, require more healthcare services due to age-related conditions like arthritis, dementia, and hypertension. Adults are also living longer, meaning they will require more treatment over the course of their longer lifespan.
- Retiring Nurses
In part with the aging Baby Boomer population comes a large number of older nurses retiring from their current roles. Currently in the United States, the average age of registered nurses is 50 years old. And by 2030, it’s expected that more than one million nurses will retire and leave the workforce. This will create many, many job opportunities for aspiring nurses, as well as advancement opportunities for existing nurses in the workforce.
- An Increasing Focus on Healthcare
Simply put, healthcare (and self-care) are becoming increasingly important among our generations. There is a greater focus that mental health is in fact health, and that taking care of your body is essential in living a healthy and satisfactory life. This is leading more people to attend their regular doctor’s visits and contact professionals when ailments occur. Additionally, there are more instances of chronic illnesses than in the past, leading many people to seek proper healthcare.
At the same time that the demand for nurses is growing, we are seeing that there are less nurses entering the workforce. This is largely due to a lack of nurse educators in the field and many retiring from the workforce. Nurses are needed to teach new nurses, and without these educators, there cannot be a steady stream of new nurses entering the field.
What Does the Nursing Shortage Mean for Aspiring Nurses?
If you are considering a career in nursing, you may feel uneasy about the current nursing shortage in the United States. At the same time, you may also feel inspired to get involved.
Without educated nurses, we cannot have quality patient care. An ongoing nursing shortage can lead to patients being turned away from hospitals, longer wait times for medical appointments, and shorter patient visits due to rushed staff. This is a call for more nurses to enter the field – to get involved.
As an aspiring nurse, the nursing shortage means that:
- You will have plentiful job opportunities.
The need for nurses is not going away, so you can look forward to countless job opportunities and getting hired fast. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, patient care centers, and other exciting workplaces are looking for aspiring nurses like you to step in and help treat patients in need. This means job stability for years to come.
- You can expect high salary potential.
With the nursing shortage has come increased earnings for registered nurses across the United States. According to a new article from Fortune.com, the average nursing salary in the U.S. surged four percent during the first nine months of 2021, to over $81,375 per year. This salary does not include signing bonuses, which average around $15,000, offered to new nurses.
- You can travel as a nurse.
Nurses are needed in all patient care settings, particularly in hospitals, outpatient care centers, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care nursing homes. However, there is also an increasing need for travel nurses to enter the workforce and help meet the current nursing demand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals report that their use of travel nurses has increased “significantly” in efforts to meet the growing demand for patient care. Travel nurses can also expect strong pay and generous benefits.
- You can become a nurse educator.
As noted above, alongside the nursing shortage is a need for nursing educators to help train the next generation of healthcare professionals. Whether you are an aspiring nurse or a working nurse looking to advance, a path in nursing education could be a great next step. You can earn your MSN in a matter of months and carve a path to a high-paying career in the field of health education.
Now is the Time to Get Involved
As the country works to combat the nursing shortage, it is clear that now is the time to get involved and enter the nursing field. As an aspiring registered nurse (RN), you have the potential to make a difference in the lives of your patients and in the greater healthcare system.
The nursing shortage means that the job opportunities is there, the salary potential is great, and employers are willing to work with you to help treat their growing patient populations. If you are looking for a fast-paced career where you can make a difference, and enjoy flexible benefits, nursing may be for you. Whether you’ve been inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic or have always dreamed of becoming a nurse, getting involved now can work to your advantage.
Today, registered nurses must be licensed to practice in the field. In order to become licensed, you must earn your associate degree in Nursing, at minimum. This degree can be completed in less than two years’ time, and position you for a successful career in healthcare.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are looking to change careers to nursing, there are also flexible options for you. An accelerated BSN program can get you into the nursing field in just 16 months.
If you are a current nurse looking to advance your education and career prospects, you may consider a Master’s in Nursing or RN-to-BSN program. The right choice for you will depend on your professional goals and your current degree.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse in Connecticut, or are looking to expand your nursing education, you can contact Goodwin University. Goodwin is a leading nursing school in Connecticut with nursing programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree level. Contact us at 800-889-3282 or visit us online to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.