Warm Southern Breeze

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Researchers: Nursing Shortage end may be in sight

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The end may be in sight for the  highly-documented Nursing shortage.

Why and how?

According to renown Nursing workforce researcher Dr. Peter I. Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University, and two others in a recent investigation published in the December issue of Health Affairs, there may soon an easing – if not an end – in sight for the Nursing Shortage.

The research makes one obvious statement – that “the vast preponderance of the nation’s registered nurses are women.” However, they found that “in the 1980s and 1990s, a decline in the number of women ages 23–26 who were choosing nursing as a career led to concerns that there would be future nurse shortages unless the trend was reversed.”

In an article entitled “Registered Nurse Supply Grows Faster Than Projected Amid Surge In New Entrants Ages 23–26,” authored by Policy Researcher David I. Auerbach of Rand Health, Economics Professor Douglas O. Staiger of Dartmouth University and Dr. Buerhaus, “between 2002 and 2009, the number of full-time-equivalent Registered Nurses ages 23-26 increased by 62%.” They noted that “if these young nurses follow the same life-cycle employment patterns as those who preceded them—as they appear to be thus far—then they will be the largest cohort of registered nurses ever observed.”

Concerning growth of the profession, they wrote that “the nurse workforce is projected to grow faster during the next two decades than previously anticipated.”

However, lest anyone think the future is a bed of roses, they issue a word of warning, saying that “it is uncertain whether interest in nursing will continue to grow in the future.”

The research may be found here.

As more choose nursing, shortage less likely, study finds

By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blogDecember 5, 2011, 2:00 p.m.

Good news for aging baby boomers: Fears of a nursing shortage may be turning around.

Between 1979 and 1991, the number of young nurses declined nearly 50%. It continued to drop for another decade, hitting a low of 102,000 in 2002.  Looking at the numbers, analysts worried that as older nurses retired, there wouldn’t be anyone to replace them, leading to a shortfall.

But when economists David I. Auerbach of Rand Health, Peter I. Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University and Douglas O. Staiger of Dartmouth University revisited the census data, they found that the tide had turned: The number of full-time registered nurses between the ages of 23 and 26 increased 62% between 2002 and 2009, growing faster than it had since the 1970s.

If that trend continues, they wrote in the December edition of the journal Health Affairs, people born in the 1980s could one day make up the largest group of registered nurses ever. “The spike we’ve seen in young women becoming registered nurses is dramatic,” Auerbach said in a statement.  “If the trend continues, it will help to ease some of the concerns about future nursing shortages.”

Unanticipated changes in nursing may have fueled the shift, the authors wrote. Interest in nursing did not continue to decline as some feared it might.  That may have been a result of campaigns to draw people into the field or changes in nursing programs that accommodated different training styles and schedules. The sagging economy probably played a role too; as other jobs became scarce, nursing looked more attractive.

Add the fact that the number of people entering nursing at 30 or older has been increasing too, and a potential shortage seems less likely.

But not out of the question, the researchers warned.  Declining numbers of primary care physicians, combined with a rising population of older people, might mean that demand for nurses could skyrocket even beyond where it is today.

The story originally appeared here: http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-nursing-shortage-rand-20111205,0,7023897.story

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