Web site spotlight: Recession may temporarily resolve nursing shortage

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, July 3, 2009

The slumping economy has led to surging nurse employment rates that could soon end the nation's 11-year shortage, according to a study released recently in the journal Health Affairs. The study examined the recession's effect on the nursing profession and reported almost 250,000 nurses entered the workforce between 2007 and 2008. This is the most significant two-year increase in RN employment in the last 30 years.

The study found nurses over the age of 50 made up more than half of the increase-many of whom delayed retirement or rejoined hospital settings to compensate for spouses losing jobs or out of fear that they might lose their jobs. In addition, in 2008, there was a hike in foreign born RNs (48,000), RNs between ages 23-25 (130,000), and RNs who came from nonhospital settings (50,000).

Peter I. Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN, lead author of the study and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, says the unprecedented surge in employment is likely to ease or end the nursing shortage in many parts of the country.

But only momentarily.

"While we see this easing, people need to remember it is likely to be temporary, and last only as long as the economy is bad," says Buerhaus, who projects a nursing shortage will return in 2018 and develop into a loss of 260,000 RNs by 2025.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from "Recession may temporarily resolve nursing shortage" found in the Reading Room at Get a free trial membership that will give you 30 days to test drive all the exciting features on the Web site.

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