Does America have a Nursing Shortage?

Does America have a Nursing Shortage

A debate is currently raging across the nursing forums, in blogs and on social media websites about the validity of the national nursing shortage. The American Association of Colleges and Nursing posted a telling article on their website about the potential for a future nursing shortage based on several factors, the most notable being the growing need for healthcare amongst newly retired baby boomers. The confusing truth remains that making a blanket statement about the present job prospects and lack of qualified nursing staff throughout the United States is doing more damage than anyone realizes and luring many into seeking out this career path only to find there are no jobs waiting for them after graduation.

The Myth of a “Recession Proof” Career

The focus on the supposed nursing shortage shouldn’t be on the statement’s validity, but rather the impact this idea is having on several individual’s career path. The present state of America’s job market is underwhelming and many are clamoring to secure reliable, gainful employment. For years, nursing was considered a “recession proof” career because, no matter what was occurring in other job markets, it was generally unaffected and even grew. This “fact” has spurred many to enroll or complete an Associate’s or Bachelor’s in Nursing with the belief that there will be high-paying and competitive jobs waiting for them after graduation. These same individuals are learning quickly there is no such thing as a “recession proof” field and that they have to compete with other equally trained and skilled recently graduated nurses for the most sought-after positions. 

The Economy’s Role in Nursing

Not only are newly anointed nurses forced to compete for jobs with their fellow recent graduates, they’re also finding a whole new crop of competition in their midst and these individuals are giving them a run for their money. A number of part-time or retired nurses are finding themselves seeking full-time employment either because their spouse is no longer working or the economy’s recent downturn has forced them back into the workplace. This fact complicates the otherwise simple idea of a nursing shortage even more and is a definite point to remember if you’re considering entering this competitive field.

The Role of Education

Once again, America’s aging population is playing a key role in present face of healthcare, leading many hospitals and clinics to actively seek skilled, qualified nurses and clinical nurse leaders to join their staff. A nurse’s education or lack thereof, is a major factor in their prospects for finding the most sought-after, lucrative positions. Many nurses are graduates of an associate’s program while others continue on to receive their bachelor’s or even master’s degree. As hospitals and clinics become more technologically advanced, they’re seeking nurses with more impressive credentials, meaning several otherwise intelligent candidates that only possess an associate’s degree are having trouble finding work.

So…Is There a Nursing Shortage?

The impact of the supposed nursing shortage really depends on where an individual resides. Many rural hospitals and clinics are suffering from staffing shortages, while several metropolitan facilities are finding themselves turning away prospective applicants because all their positions are filled. If you’re considering seeking employment as a nurse, check with your local college or university to determine if the job market in your area is thriving or whether you should seek the degree and look for work elsewhere.

The Future of Nursing

The ideas of a “nursing shortage” and the “recession proof” career have led many to rethink their present path and start the long and potentially expensive journey to becoming a nurse. These same prospective students are in for a wake-up call when they finally take the initiative and apply at a nearby college or university, only to be turned away or put on a seemingly endless waiting list. Several programs are becoming inundated with applicants and at the same time are having trouble recruiting and retaining qualified instructors. These factors will also play a role in any potential future nursing shortage and must be taken in consideration before making a final decision on whether or not a nursing career is right for you.

No matter if the idea of a “nursing shortage” is valid or not, the best way to secure the most lucrative, sought-after positions in the field is accomplished by a combination of impressive credentials, hard work and dedication. Don’t believe any of the hype and in the end, choose this career not because it’s secure or a sure thing, but because you have a passion for helping others.


This article was written by Alex Phelps who is currently pursuing an online Master’s degree in education and plans on going into special education.  Inspired by his brother and hero Jeff, it is Alex’s dream to work with children dealing with autism.

Jon W

Jon works with various authors who are all experts in various health related fields. It is his goal to help share there knowledge, insights and experiences with others.

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