Too Few, Too Fast

There are currently 2.7 million nurses in the United States.

But, according to projections published in 2012 in the U.S. Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card, that’s 315,000 fewer nurses than we need to sufficiently care for the general population.

315,130 Shortfall of nurses in 2016

Problems On the Horizon

Drawing on the nursing shortage model from the U.S. Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card, we updated it with new data and found that the United States will face a nursing deficit of 1.2 million nurses by 2030.

That’s 1.2 million nurses we’ll need to meet the demand for healthcare services throughout the U.S.

1,198,655 Projected shortfall of nurses in 2030
1,198,655 Shortfall of nurses in 2016 Projected shortfall of nurses in 2030

Shortages Across the Nation

Florida, Texas and California are the states projected to be hit the hardest by the nursing shortage.

In California alone, the nursing deficit is expected to reach a high of 230,000 by 2030, which only contributes to its significant history of nursing deficits. Combined with Texas and Florida, these three states will account for the nearly 40 percent shortfall across all of the United States while only seven states–which include Nebraska, Oklahoma and Massachusetts–are forecasted to keep positive ratios of nurses to patients by 2030.

State Name

Shortage of 0 nurses

AK HI WA OR CA ID NV UT AZ MT WY CO NM ND SD NE KS OK TX MN IA MO AR LA IL IN KY TN MS WI OH WV NC AL MI PA VA SC GA NY NJ MD DC FL VT RI CT DE ME NH MA Hover or tap on the graphic for more information Key Surplus Greatest shortage

Every Year, More Patients

So what’s causing the nursing shortage, exactly? One primary cause is the aging population of the United States, the baby boomer generation in particular. As more people need medical care, available health care services just can’t keep up.

Today, there are 48 million retired baby boomers, and that same retiring generation is expected to reach 71 million people by 2030. As baby boomers slowly ease into retirement, the generation once named the happiest and healthiest in history will become increasingly reliant on health care services.

0m 20m 40m 60m 80m 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024 2026 2028 2030 Hover or tap on the graphic for more information Projected population aged 65+ 71,453,471

And Fewer Nurses To Care For Them

While baby boomers do (and will continue to) make up a fair share of patients in need of care, they also constitute a large part of the nursing workforce.

The Current Population Survey shows that nearly one-third of all registered nurses (one million) will reach retirement age in the next 15 years, and nearly 650,000 nurses are predicted to retire by 2024. Projecting this trend further, 850,000 nurses are expected to leave the nursing workforce by 2030, leaving fewer and fewer qualified professionals to care for the aging population.

0k 200k 400k 600k 800k 1000k 2020 2022 2024 2026 2028 2030 Hover or tap on the graphic for more information No. of nurses projected to retire estimates 71,453,471

Nursing Careers Waiting to Happen

Demographic trends aren’t the only factors contributing to the nursing shortage. In 2015, nearly 69,000 qualified nursing applicants were turned away by colleges and universities in the U.S. according to the American Association of Colleges for Nursing.

But why are these aspiring nurses being turned away? U.S. colleges cite a lack of sufficient faculty and clinical sites to train would-be nurses. In the last 10 years, an estimated half million (507,000) eligible people have not been able to become nurses and join the workforce.

0 10k 20k 30k 40k 50k 60k 70k 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 Hover or tap on the graphic for more information No. of qualified applicants turned away 0

A Solution In Education

Bridging the gap between popular demand of nursing degrees and colleges’ abilities to offer them is crucial in tackling the impending shortage. As it currently stands, if the 507,000 eligible nursing applicants who were denied access to nursing programs in the last 10 years had been able to complete their education and become nurses, projections of the nursing shortage would not be as dire*.

691,530 *Revised shortage 1,198,655 Projected shortage

Meeting The Need

Addressing the imminent nursing shortage in the United States must begin with enabling the thousands of aspiring nurses to begin their careers, which will only be possible with more educators in nursing programs to cope with the demand. Today’s nurses need more opportunities to become the instructors who will inspire our next generation of caregivers.

In the workplace, plenty can be done to improve retention: high stress levels and low pay are cited as top threats to happiness at work, according to a report by Jackson Nurse Professionals. We need to help nurses stay in their careers and deliver the best care.

If the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it, then it’s time to start raising awareness of the imminent shortage of nurses, so we can finally begin to address it.

See the sources used in this story.

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