Great Recession is Temporarily Slowing the Nursing Shortage


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Nursing Specialties, Permanent Placement, Travel Nursing

The nursing shortage has always been a cyclic issue. For instance, consider the fact that just about 25 years ago there were actually too many nurses and it was quit difficult to find a job. Many of those who became nurses then are now in their 50’s and seriously thinking about retiring today, but for now the economy has slowed them down.

Nursing is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging professions and consequently many nurses are quite ready to retire in their 50’s. When the economy really began to sour last fall, and retirement plans such as 401Ks took a nose dive, many nurses decided to delay their retirement.

In addition, many nurses found themselves returning to the profession because their spouses had been laid off. As a result of these two factors coupled with lower hospital censuses, the shortage of nurses has actually begun to shrink.

This may be a fix to the nursing shortage right now, but it’s quite temporary. When the economy recovers, there may be an even larger mass exodus of nurses than previously expected.

Take for example the fact that the average age of nurses in California is 47, and 45% of those nurses are actually over the age of 50. Potentially 45% of the nurses in California could be retiring very soon.

California is near the bottom of the number of nurses per capita at 647 RNs for every 100,000 persons. The national number is 825 per 100,000. Only Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico rank lower than California. California is also one of the states with a mandatory nurse-to-patient ratio. Arizona is considering this type of legislation as well.

The number of new nurses cannot keep up with the number leaving the profession, even with the slower pace of retirement. It’s certainly not for lack of potential students as many thousands are turned away each year because of the lack of nurse educators. Schools just cannot compete with the salaries nurses can earn working in a hospital versus teaching.

Some hospital groups have invested in nursing programs to help them expand and accept more students in an effort to forestall the shortage which will be presented by a mass exodus of nurses. This has helped, but it’s going to take a lot more to make a dent in the potential crisis.

As health care reform efforts make progress, the potential for an additional 46 million currently uninsured Americans to have improved access to health care will also make a dramatic impact on the nursing shortage as demands for care increase.

So for those nurses who are having some difficulty finding jobs right now, don’t get too discouraged. As the economy begins to recover, there will soon be no shortage of jobs for nurses.

Opportunities for travel nurses should begin to pick up again and those nurses who have a large repertoire of skills and experiences will be able to command offers like never before.

Nurses should take advantage of these times and expand their knowledge base and skills set to prepare for the future.

©2009 by All Rights Reserved. By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of four books including The Everything New Nurse Book. She is also the owner/author of