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Shortage of nurses persists, but not as bad as predicted

The larger need now is for specialized nurses, and an availability of young nurses to replace those expected to retire in the next decade.

By Stephen Feller
Experts were concerned about a massive shortage of nurses a decade ago, however the recession drove many to explore careers in the medical industry -- easing what could have been a much larger problem. Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Experts were concerned about a massive shortage of nurses a decade ago, however the recession drove many to explore careers in the medical industry -- easing what could have been a much larger problem. Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

BOZEMAN, Mont., Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Fears of a nursing shortage more than a decade ago have not been as dire as predicted because of strong efforts to attract people to the industry. While the recruitment drive has seen better results than expected, researchers said the dangers of having too few nurses remain real.

There are currently more than 1 million nurses over age 50 who are expected to retire over the next decade. Researchers expect a shortage of about 130,000 nurses by 2025.

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"Overall, we project that the registered nursing workforce will increase from roughly 2.7 million full-time equivalent registered nurses in 2013 to 3.3 million in 2030," said David Auerbach, a researcher in the college of nursing at Montana State University, in a press release. "However, this is contingent on people still entering the nursing profession at the current rate -- which is higher than anyone anticipated."

Auerbach said that media efforts to promote shortages of candidates for high-paying, high-satisfaction nursing jobs in the late 2000's after the start of the recession. The promotion led to a doubling of nursing students over the next ten years and much of the easing of concerns.

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Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, creating requirements for more medical personnel, has created additional positions -- and the recession led many baby boomers to stay at work longer than they'd wanted to. However concerns are slowly being raised again, Auerbach said, as the number of retiring nurses grows and specialized nursing candidates are needed.

"Almost 40 percent of registered nurses are over the age of 50," Auerbach said. "The number of nurses leaving the workforce each year has been growing steadily from around 40,000 in 2010 to nearly 80,000 by 2020. Meanwhile, the dramatic growth in nursing school enrollment over the 2000s has begun to level off."

The study is published in Medical Care.

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