The need for nurses in the United States is stronger than ever, according to a study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026.
By the time 2026 comes, the registered nursing workforce will grow to around 3.4 million workers. Think 2016. At that time, there were around 2.9 million registered nurses in the country. However, even though the number of registered nurses is expected to increase, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections anticipates a need for an additional 203,700 registered nurses by 2026.
So what gives? Peter Buerhaus, a professor of nursing at Montana State University College of Nursting, analyzed four challenges that face the nursing industry. He listed aging of the baby boom generation, physician shortages, retirement of registered nurses and health care reform as four factors that are impacting the amount of registered nurses.
From 1946 to 1964, the amount of people in the country grew by 74 million people. When 2030 hits, a lot of those who were born during that time period will be at least 70 years, or older. In 2015, there were around 6.3 million people in the country who were 85, or older. When 2035 comes around, there will be 13 million people in the country 85 years, or older. As people get older, they need more medical care, thus causing a need for more registered nurses in the country.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, there will be an estimated 40,800 to 104,900 shortage of physicians in 2030. Again, that number comes from an increase in age of the population and population growth. When there is a shortage of physicians, the nursing workforce is depended upon to provide services that physicians typically would provide.
As baby boomers increased so did the number of registered nurses. When 1990 came around, baby boomers accounted for two thirds of the registered nurse workforce. However, age plays another contributing factor to registered nurses as well, because as two thirds of the registered nurse workforce ages, the number of people in that workforce leaves.
When Republicans took over the White House in 2016, they began to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that works to make health insurance more affordable, expands the Medicaid program and supports medical care delivery methods. Buerhaus is unsure how an increased amount of uninsured hospital patients will impact nurse employment, but if income in hospitals drop, registered nurses will suffer, because their wages will be lower.
Even though there are challenges facing registered nurses, they’ll have an opportunity to impact the health care system, and it will offer a chance to increase leadership from all aspects of nursing.