INFOGRAPHIC: Where Will the U.S. Need Nurses?
April 4, 2017
Nurses play a critical role in meeting the growing demand for health care in our country, and there have been dire predictions about an anticipated shortage in the years ahead. However, though many states will face a nursing shortfall, some are expected to experience a surplus.
To better visualize how various regions will be impacted, Nursing@Georgetown, an online FNP program, examined data from a 2014 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) report, “The Future of the Nursing Workforce: National- and State-Level Projections, 2012-2025.” The infographic created helps illustrate which states will need the most nurses in the coming years.
Understanding the Dynamics of the Nursing Shortage
There are many dynamics influencing the predicted nursing shortage, including the expansion of care under the Affordable Care Act and the graying of the baby boomer generation. As the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes, an aging population, coupled with “nursing schools across the country … struggling to expand capacity to meet the rising demand for care given the national move toward health care reform,” will result in a shortage of nurses.
Additional factors cited in a 2015 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce include the age and makeup of the current nurse workforce, the size of graduating nursing classes, and nurses’ career decisions. Other factors include a demanding job environment; inconsistent wages; and challenges to recruitment, training, and retention.
These dynamics are also captured by the authors of “Nursing: Supply and Demand through 2020” when they note, “Stressful working environments, along with long hours and erratic schedules in some nursing positions, contribute to many nurses moving in and out of the field based on economic conditions and personal circumstances.”
Predicting Effects and Outcomes of a Nursing Deficit
Certainly, the anticipation of having too few nurses is about much more than the numbers. While nurses are impacted by having a shortage of colleagues to support them at work, an insufficient supply of nurses can have a significant impact on the quality of care, thereby creating the potential for negative patient outcomes.
In addition, since there is also a predicted physician shortage in the years ahead — especially in primary care — the combined effect will likely mean reduced access to care. However, since advance practice nurses — like nurse practitioners (NPs) — can help to bridge this gap, they can play an important role in addressing such needs. In states that support full practice for NPs, advance practice nurses can function as primary care providers, providing a rich pool of resources to meet health care needs in those states. However, states with restricted practice regulations can’t benefit as fully from the skills and training that NPs possess. These are important considerations if a state is expected to experience a shortfall and also limits the extent of care that NPs can provide.
Making the Most of New Opportunities in Specific Regions
As noted, while many regions of the country will face a shortage of nurses over the next decade, some areas are expected to have a surplus. According to the HRSA data, 16 states are predicted to have a shortage of RNs by 2025.
Ten are in the West, four are in the South, and two are in the Northeast — with Arizona having the greatest expected shortage in relation to anticipated demand, followed by Colorado and North Carolina. However, for the remaining 34 states evaluated, the supply of nurses is expected to exceed demand — including all of the states in the Midwest.
To make the most of the opportunities available, it’s important to know state-level predictions and any dynamics that may affect that region. Nurses looking for jobs along the west coast will likely have more success than those trying to land a position somewhere in the middle of the country.
Obtaining advanced nursing education will help to expand career opportunities, too. Programs like Nursing@Georgetown’s Master of Science degree in Nursing online provides working nurses with the ability to continue to practice, while helping them to advance their careers and meet the needs of the communities they serve.
Whether you are a seasoned nurse looking for new opportunities in the field — or someone considering a career in nursing — gaining an informed perspective about where you’ll find the most opportunities will help to optimize your efforts in the years ahead.