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The Nursing Shortage: Is It Still A Problem?

As far back as I can remember I’ve heard that we are in the midst of a nursing shortage. In 2002 when I entered nursing school, I was told finding a job would be easy. However, after graduation, some of my colleagues struggled to find employment. If we were in the middle of a shortage, why would anyone be unemployed?  

Is there still a nursing shortage? Yes, there is indeed a shortage, and it is predicted to grow through 2030. The data shows it will be more evident in the southern and western parts of the United States. 

You may be wondering if there’s any good news in the middle of this shortage?  

The good news is that the nursing profession is growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections, 2014-2024, the RN workforce is expected to increase from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024. 

 If the registered nursing workforce is growing, how can there still be a shortage? This article explores the nursing shortage and why some nurses can’t find jobs. 

Slow Enrollment 

Nursing school enrollment isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with demand. In 2016, admission into entry-level baccalaureate programs only increased by 3.6%. It’s not that people don’t want to be nurses, so there must be other factors.  

  • Not enough educators – Many nurses go on to work in hospitals and other jobs without advancing their careers to become nurse educators. This has created a shortage of nursing faculty.   

Do nurses not enroll in master’s level programs? They do, but, many nurses are going on to become nurse practitioners instead of pursuing the educator track. 


The nursing workforce in 2013 was comprised of 55% of RNs over the age of 50. Are these nurses retiring?  

  • Vacancies due to retirement – Many of the baby boomers have worked longer than expected. As they prepare for retirement, the shortage will increase over the next 15-20 years. This will create a great need for nurses! 

Job Dissatisfaction 

Unfortunately, as rigorous as nursing school is, it doesn’t always prepare nurses for the “real world.” Job dissatisfaction adds to the shortage. 

  • Factors for Dissatisfaction – High nurse-patient ratios can make the job unsafe, causing some nurses to leave the profession. Long shifts can also take a toll on many nurses, especially newer ones. Poor job satisfaction moves many nurses to change career paths altogether. 

Shortage of Nurses, but no jobs? 

With all of these factors contributing to the shortage, why can’t new graduates find jobs? 

Here are three reasons: 

  • Competition – Depending on the specialty, there may be too many applicants for the same job. 
  • The shortage isn’t nationwide – Not all states are seeing a shortage. In fact, some states have a surplus of nurses.  
  • Education requirements – Associate and diploma RN programs allow nurses to obtain their licensure quickly. But, employer expectation can make landing a job difficult. The new graduate that holds a BSN will likely be chosen first for jobs based on their higher degree. 

How to Land A Job in Today’s Nursing Environment  

If you are looking for a job in today’s nursing environment, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of landing a job quickly.  

Take a look at the nurse shortage date in your area. You may have to take a job you’re not as excited about in the beginning. Try to be strategic so that your early nursing jobs will help you move toward your dream RN job later. Get your BSN if you don’t have it. Consider other certifications that also put you ahead of others that apply for the same job.  

The Facts 

While there is a nursing shortage, jobs can still be hard to find. Prepare yourself by knowing the facts. Align your education with your dream job and fill the nursing vacancies in your area. 

The Nursing Shortage: Is It Still A Problem?
Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a freelance writer and owner of WriteRN.net.