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, we have put together a helpful infographic using the data from the study ”Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce: 2014 - 2030" by the U.S Health Resources and Services Administration. This infographic highlights where Registered Nurses can expect a surplus of nursing job opportunities and a potential shortage where competition might be tighter than expected. Overall, the healthcare industry is expected to grow and see an increase of healthcare professionals by roughly 2.4 million over the next decade.
As the healthcare industry seeks more professionals to combat the shortage of qualified healthcare professionals, Registered Nurses will be in demand to assume the responsibility of other roles that are currently open. This is due to the specialized training and education that Registered Nurses earn and work towards throughout their academic and professional career.
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.
Registered Nurses have the ability to assume the responsibilities of plenty of other roles in the healthcare industry because they are so well-rounded and have the skills necessary to plug-and-play wherever necessary. Compared to the rest of the healthcare industry where nearly every role is specialized, RNs can easily fit into different environments and roles and fill the void immediately. The good news is that while there are plenty of opportunities for Registered Nurses to fill the demand for positions that don't find quality candidates quickly, RNs are being compensated extremely well in the meantime.
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. The baby boomer generation is slowly aging out of the workforce and is on the verge of retirement or have already begun the beginning stages of it.
This means that the healthcare industry is going to experience care levels in numbers that have never been seen before, and the healthcare industry desperately needs qualified Registered Nurses who can combat this demand. Some of the states that see the largest demands are ones you typically wouldn't consider. This has to do with plenty of factors that influence retirement numbers and state citizenship growth.
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.”
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.
As the healthcare industry takes drastic measures to improve the positive patient outcomes, the healthcare industry is more willing to hire more nurses to fill these roles and increase the overall patient experience while also simultaneously taking the heavy workload off of RNs who feel like they are over-worked in the current marketplace.
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, and provides another explanation as to why the healthcare industry is drastically increasing their desire for more Registered Nurses over the next decade.
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, 7 states are predicted to have a shortage of RNs by 2030. This means that there are going to be plenty of opportunities in those states for RNs who are looking to expand their career options. Even though the report seems to indicate that there are only going to be a handful of states that will drastically need nurses in the future, the nursing demand has steadily risen in the last decade, and more likely than not the demand will continue to rise. Add to that the nursing turnover rate continues to rise, Registered Nurses can expect plenty of job opportunities over the next decade.
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. This is due to the perceived better benefits of living in those areas where populace trends are happening or growth opportunities exist.
Obtaining advanced nursing education will help to expand career opportunities, too. For those RNs who invest in themselves by obtaining continuing education credits, or go back to school to enhance their skills and degree, additional career opportunities will present themselves across the United States.
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.
We've taken the time to highlight where the United States will need Registered Nurses over the next decade from the report conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration. In addition, we've compiled the helpful infographic below for a visual representation of the state by state nursing supply and demand.