NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Predicts Shortage Of Nurses

June 14, 2000

Women who would have gone into nursing in the past are now opting for careers as doctors -- or are picking another career altogether in search of higher pay, according to Peter Buerhaus, a researcher at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. So nursing ranks are being depleted just when baby-boomers are nearing their retirement years.

A study by Buerhaus in today's Journal of the American Medical Association makes these predictions:

  • The average age of the typical registered nurse has been going up -- from 37 in 1983 to 42 in 1998.
  • By 2010, more than 40 percent of the nursing workforce will be over age 50.
  • By 2020, the number of registered nurses will fall short of demand by 20 percent.
  • If present trends continue, the nation will be short nearly half-a-million registered nurses by 2020.

Experts theorize that future patients might increasingly get care from technicians or aides instead of registered nurses.

Source: Kathleen Fackelmann, "Where's Florence Nightingale? Study: USA Faces Nurse Shortage," USA Today, June 14, 2000.


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