The Nursing Shortage Crisis

Qualified Registered Nurses Needed

As baby boomers in the United States age, the demand for qualified nurses is increasing. Because of the shortage of qualified nurses, registered nursing is anticipated to be one of the hottest jobs over the next decade. The nursing shortage means that many people earning their nursing degrees can write their own ticket to success.

Contributing Factors

Some contributing factors impacting the nursing shortage:

  • Enrollment in schools of nursing is not growing fast enough
  • Limited nursing school faculty
  • With fewer new nurses, the average RN age is climbing
  • An aging U.S. population

Addressing the Nursing Shortage

The American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) is extremely concerned about the shortage and is diligently working with schools, policy makers, the media and other organizations to bring attention to this health care crisis.

The AACN compiled a number of nationwide strategies taking place to address the nursing shortage:

  • In 2006, many statewide initiatives were started to encourage current nurses to return to school to earn graduate degrees to teach the next generation of nurses.
  • Nursing colleges and universities are forming strategic partnerships and seeking private support to help expand student capacity in schools.
  • In September 2010, AACN announced the plan to expand NursingCAS, the nation’s centralized application service for RN programs, to include graduate nursing programs. This plan is expected to maximize the educational capacity of schools of nursing.

Online Nursing Programs to the Rescue

Nursing schools are increasingly unable to accommodate the influx of new students because they don’t have enough space or qualified teachers. To make up for this challenge, one thing that schools such as University of Phoenix, South University and Kaplan University are doing is developing high-quality online nursing programs.

Advantages of Online Nursing Programs

Sheila Marks, DNS, APRN, BC, is an Associate Professor of Nursing at South University in Savannah, Georgia. Marks is careful to explain, online nursing programs are not secondary to traditional programs—they are filling a void and offering students wait-listed at traditional schools an alternative. “The prospective students on waiting lists now are not marginal students. They are good students who can’t get into nursing school because there is not enough faculty,” she said.

What You Can Do

“There are many reasons why prospective students should consider nursing,” Marks said. “The field offers an active, varied work environment and job security. There is also flexibility—most nurses can either work part time or full time.”

Anyone who is interested in science and enjoys working with others should apply to nursing school. “We want the best and the brightest to enter the profession,” she said. An aptitude for science is critical. Marks said that the emphasis on science is much more now than when she was in nursing school in the 1970s.

What are her final words of advice for the would-be nurse? “Do it!” she said enthusiastically. But, she warned, “It is a rigorous scientific field, so take it seriously.”