What You Need to Know About the Nursing Shortage

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The U.S. is facing a significant nurse shortage that is threatening public health.

At any given time in the United States, some of the 3.9 million professional active registered nurses (RNs) are helping patients handle illnesses, diseases and acute injuries. Even though RNs represent the largest group of care providers in the United States, the demand for services far outweighs the number of nurses available.

The U.S., like other developed countries, is facing a significant nurse shortage that is threatening public health. Even though nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the nation, the demand is exceeding the supply. The rising number of Americans over age 65, an increasing number of chronic illnesses and an increase in nurse retirements are just some of the reasons why the U.S. healthcare system can’t keep up with the number of providers needed. The result is a trickle-down effect that is preventing solutions to the nursing shortage.

‘Without decisive action, nurses will practice under increased stress,” the American Nurses Association (ANA) said. “As the healthcare system is strained by an aging population and broadened access to public healthcare, it will be nurses that feel the weight of patient responsibility on their shoulders.”

The ANA said it would take 1.1 million nurses to fill the growing divide between the expansion of the healthcare system and the need. RNs who are seeking careers with a BSN degree are among the nursing shortage solutions. The advanced degree provides personal and professional benefits such as increased job satisfaction and higher salaries.

Factors Contributing to the Nursing Shortage

Healthcare experts have found the nursing shortage is not just a result of one event or problem. It stems from several factors coming together, including:

Aging population

Every day, about 10,000 baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age. Aging brings an increase in medical conditions and the need for health services. Older people typically have more than one co-occurring chronic condition to handle, requiring an increase in necessary treatments.

Nurse retirements

About 1 million RNs are age 50 and older, which means up to a third of the nursing workforce could retire in the next decade. The shortage of nurses impacts staffing levels and the level of expertise within a healthcare organization.

Regional shortages

Several areas in the U.S. have become among the hardest hit by the nursing shortage because of the increased need for healthcare providers. For example, Florida, Georgia and California are suffering due to the growing elderly population with chronic health conditions. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia, the large number of individuals with obesity-related health problems, including diabetes, has increased the need for additional care. Overall, rural areas suffer as a result of the nursing shortage because of the lack of easily accessible healthcare.

Workplace violence

From incivility to physical aggression, nurses face the brunt of violence in the healthcare system. As a result, they exhibit signs of stress including depression and a loss of productivity. The consequences include increased medical mistakes, patient errors and nursing shortages.

Shortage of nursing school faculty

With a shortage of nurses comes a shortage of nurse educators in nursing schools. The leading nursing education programs seek to reduce the faculty shortage by offering online MSN degrees with a focus in faculty and education.

Nursing Shortage Solutions

Healthcare experts have been working on plans to bring in new nurses and keep the existing employees to alleviate the shortage. The following are just some of the ideas and programs that have been implemented on both micro and macro levels:

Greater healthcare collaboration

Nurses are increasingly being asked to participate in multi-disciplinary care. By taking part in such teams, nurses can ensure patients get the best care possible.


Some medical facilities have been using technology to cut back on tasks such as managing medications and lifting bedridden patients. While there are no plans to replace nurses with robots, technology allows nurses to work more efficiently at their jobs or provide medical assistance from a distance.

Passive recruiting

Passive recruiting, or courting nursing job candidates who are not currently seeking employment or for jobs not yet available, allows healthcare facilities to take proactive approaches to staffing.


On average, medical centers spend up to $300,000 for every 1 percent increase in annual nursing staff turnover. Many healthcare facilities are offering signing bonuses, free medical insurance, student-loan forgiveness, company-paid mobile phone services, monetary incentives and bonuses, free meals and paid moving expenses to entice new nurses.

Non-monetary incentives

By improving workplace culture, healthcare facilities can retain good employees. Non-monetary incentives include recognition for a job well done, a choice of shifts, relaxed dress code days, a cohesive work environment and an opportunity to socialize with coworkers.


With the drive to employ a higher number of nurses who have earned BSN degrees, many healthcare organizations offer tuition assistance to obtain an RN-BSN degree. For nurses who have earned associate degrees in nursing or diplomas in nursing, an RN-BSN online program offers a way to achieve advanced nursing status while continuing their professional career.

About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Program

Duquesne University’s online RN-BSN program allows RNs to customize their learning outcomes so they can maximize their working knowledge of healthcare while learning new skills as well. The program is 100 percent online, providing flexibility so students can complete their coursework from anywhere at any time.

The program also provides one-on-one faculty mentorship and the opportunity for student assignment collaboration. The faculty members are RNs who have years of experience in clinical and classroom work. For more information, contact Duquesne University now.



Total Number of Professionally Active Nurses: KFF

The Nursing Shortage: ANA

Nursing, Shortage: NCBI

Moody’s: Nursing shortage will persist until 2025, weakening US NFP hospitals’ operating margins: Moody’s

Nurse Manager’s Guide to Retention & Recruitment: HCPro