Website spotlight: Nursing workforce stats take a surprising turn

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, December 9, 2011

A new nursing study out this week brings hospitals some welcome good news: The nursing shortage may not be as bad we feared it would be.

Nurse staffing gurus David Auerbach, health economist at RAND Health, Peter Buerhaus from Vanderbilt University, and Douglas Staiger from Dartmouth took a look at 35 years of data and discovered the number of young people age 23-26 entering nursing has increased 62% from 2002 to 2009.

"This is a very welcome and surprising development," says Auerbach, in a media release. "Instead of worrying about a decline, we are now growing the supply of nurses."

The study, published in Health Affairs, shows the nursing workforce is changing and the percentage of younger nurses is higher than in decades, reflecting a dramatic turnaround from the previous two decades. Between 1983 and 1998, the proportion of nurses younger than 30 dropped from 30% to 12%. In turn, this led to an increase in average age from 37.4 to 42 years old. Increasing options for female employment is one of the reasons for fewer younger nurses in these decades.

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