Embargoed Until:
June 12, 2009
12:01 a.m. Eastern Time



Christopher Fleming

Recession Is Easing Nurse Shortage, But Longer-Term Shortage Still Looms

In Package Of Papers On Nursing Workforce, Authors Emphasize
Importance Of Nurses To Health Reform Goals

Bethesda, MD -- The continuing recession will contribute to easing or even ending the current registered nurse (RN) shortage in many areas of the country, as older nurses delay retirement or return to the workforce and part-time nurses become full time in response to the employment insecurity of their spouses, according to a study published today on the Health Affairs Web site. However, the relief will be temporary: A new RN shortage looms in the next decade as baby boomers retire from the nursing workforce, says the study, “The Recent Surge in Nurse Employment: Causes and Implications,” by Peter Buerhaus of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and coauthors. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w657

The Buerhaus study is one of six papers on the nursing workforce published online today by Health Affairs. Other papers in the package describe innovative models of care developed and implemented by nurses that promote the goals of health reform: expanding access, improving quality and safety, and reducing costs. The papers also document current obstacles and solutions to increasing the supply of nurses. Without sufficient numbers of new nurses entering the workforce to replace those who will be retiring, the U.S. health system is at serious risk of being unable to meet the public’s health care needs, study authors say. Publication of the papers by Health Affairs was supported by a grant from the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Avoiding A Long-Term Shortage Of Nurses Will Require Expanding The Nation’s Nursing Education Infrastructure

According to Buerhaus and his colleagues, the number of RNs ages 23-25 has reached its highest level in two decades, most likely as a result of efforts to promote nursing as a career. In addition, the researchers say that foreign-born nurses are becoming an increasingly important part of the workforce. In 2008, 16.3 percent of RNs were foreign-born, up from 9 percent in 1994.

Despite the anticipated easing of the current RN shortage, the retirement of baby boomers from the nurse workforce is still likely to lead to a significant shortage of nurses in the next decade, say Buerhaus, the Valere Potter Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt, and coauthors David Auerbach of the Congressional Budget Office and Douglas Staiger of Dartmouth College. The researchers project a shortfall of RNs developing around 2018 and growing to about 260,000 by 2025. Although these projections represent a smaller shortfall than earlier estimates, the magnitude of the 2025 deficit would still be more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s. Avoiding this shortfall will require expanding the capacity of nursing education programs, which since 2002 have turned away 30,000 or more qualified applicants annually, the researchers say.

Other papers on the nursing workforce being published in Health Affairs include:

Nursing: A Key To Patient Satisfaction
Ann Kutney-Lee, Matthew D. McHugh, Douglas M. Sloane, Jeannie P. Cimiotti, Linda Flynn, Donna Felber Neff, and Linda H. Aiken
Patients’ reports of satisfaction are higher in hospitals where nurses practice in better work environments or with more favorable patient-to-nurse ratios. Improving nurses’ work environments, including nurse staffing, may improve patients’ experiences and their quality of care. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w669

Addressing The Nursing Workforce: A Critical Element For Health Reform
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and John Rother
For health reform to be effective and the U.S. economy to recover, we must build, empower, and deploy a twenty-first-century health care nursing workforce. Highly skilled nurses are needed to deliver, coordinate, and direct care in hospitals and community-based and home settings, but these nurses will be in short supply unless we address the nurse and nurse faculty shortages. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w620

Education Policy Initiatives To Address the Nurse Shortage
Linda H. Aiken, Robyn B. Cheung, and Danielle M. Olds

We have a historic opportunity to prevent a future nurse shortage by acting now to expand nursing school enrollments at a time when applications are at an all-time high, but we must first address the nurse faculty shortage and financially strapped colleges and universities. Increased public subsidies are needed to provide greater access to nursing education, with an emphasis on baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, where job growth is expected to be greatest. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w646

Expanding the Capacity Of Nursing Education
Brenda L. Cleary, Angela Barron McBride, Margaret L. McClure, and Susan C. Reinhard

The U.S. must ensure a sufficient nurse workforce to care for a diverse and aging population. To do this, we must change the way nursing education is delivered so that open faculty positions are filled and innovative educational programs are supported and expanded. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w634

The Role Of Nurses In Improved Hospital Quality And Efficiency: Real-World Results
Jack Needleman and Susan Hassmiller

Because the staffing and organization of hospital nursing affects quality and cost, nurses must be actively involved in process improvement directed at quality and efficiency. Magnet accreditation and the Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB) program show how nurses and staff, supported by leadership, can lead the improvement of health care quality and efficiency. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.4.w625

After the embargo lifts, you can read all of the studies at http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.28.4.w620/DC2


Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears bimonthly in print with additional online-only papers published weekly as Health Affairs Web Exclusives at www.healthaffairs.org.


©2009 Project HOPE–The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.