The new numbers come from Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., Valere Potter Professor of Nursing; senior associate dean for Research at the School of Nursing, in an article appearing in the Nov. 17 health policy journal Health Affairs. "While R.N.'s over age 50 have provided much of the expansion of hospital employment since 2001, it is striking that in 2003, employment of younger RNs grew by nearly 90,000, reaching the highest level observed for younger R.N.'s since 1987," said Buerhaus. "This entry of younger RNs into the workforce is consistent with reports of substantial gains in enrollments at nursing schools since 2001, and may represent the first wave of two-year program graduates."
The number of men entering workforce has also been growing at a steady rate over the past two decades, increasing from 5 percent in 1983 with about 60,000 R.N.'s in the workforce, to nearly 9 percent, or 160,000 in 2003. "Both of these groups are probably responding to higher wages and opportunities in nursing driven by publicity about the nursing shortage, and many have just graduated from associate degree nursing education programs," said Buerhaus. The research shows older women and foreign-born women are still a factor and account for a large share of the growth.
But Buerhaus said the most surprising findings from his research show that even with the significant increase in nurses joining the workforce, the nursing shortage is far from over. Buerhaus said it is unlikely that the recent increase in younger nurses will provide enough new nurses to solve the projected long-run shortage. "The workforce
Contact: Heather Hall
Vanderbilt University Medical Center