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University of Rhode Island — Nursing

Nursing Shortage

It's a great time to be a nurse...

The U.S. health care system is pinched by a persistent nursing shortage that is expected to intensify in coming years as the 78 million people in the post-World War Two baby boom generation begin to hit retirement age. An aging population requires more care for chronic illnesses and at nursing homes. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment levels to meet the rising demand for nursing care. Schools of nursing do not have enough faculty to teach the next generation of nurses and thousands of applicants are being turned away from nursing schools.

Peter Buerhaus, a nursing work force expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, warns that the nursing shortage is a "quality and safety" issue. Hospital staffs may be stretched thin due to unfilled nursing jobs, raising the risk of medical errors, safety lapses and delays in care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2020 more than 1 million registered nurses will be needed in our nation's health care system to meet the demand for nursing care.

The economic stimulus bill President Obama signed in 2009 included $100 million earmarked to tackle the nursing shortage.