Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, correctional facilities, schools, or serve in the military. Demand for nurses in the United States is constantly increasing. Much of this nursing demand is attributed to the increasing size of our senior citizens. Data from the National Institutes of Health shows that the population of senior citizens will increase 75 percent (to 69 million Americans) between 2010 and 2030. Of course, as one’s age increases, so does the prevalence of adverse health conditions. The National Council on Aging claims that 80 percent of senior citizens have at least one chronic condition and that 68 percent have at least two.
Unfortunately, there is an ever-growing shortage of nurses in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be a 1.2 million shortfall of RNs between 2014 and 2022. The American Nurses Association projects that 700,000 nurses will retire or leave the labor force by 2024. An article in the American Journal of Medical Quality demonstrated the forecasted shortages of RNs in each state. The researchers assigned a letter grade to the states, predicting that the number of states receiving a “D” or “F” will increase from 5 in 2009 to 30 in 2030. In their report, they note that all 12 states forecast to receive an “F” are in the south and west (Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia).
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report on the future of nursing in the United States. In the report, they make the recommendation that nurses achieve higher levels of education and training. By 2020, the IOM calls for the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to increase to 80 percent. But that may be easier said than done, according to a report by the American Association of Colleges in Nursing (AACN). The AACN states:
“U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.”
And how’s the pay? A recent study of 20,000 healthcare professionals found a decrease in nurse salaries over the past year. In the survey, nurses reported a 3.1 percent decrease in pay, for an average salary of $61,875. Additionally, the survey found that only 44 percent of nurses are satisfied with their salaries, with the dissatisfaction driven primarily by the perception that their pay is below what their experience warrants. Consequently, 13 percent of nurses are actively looking for new jobs, while 17 percent are satisfied in their current positions and plan to stay there.