We know that some of the most in-demand programs at both the undergraduate levels are in healthcare, and in particular, the nursing field. And the projected nursing shortage is alarming – even after some expansion in programs designed to train registered nurses. In fact, there seems to be something of a disconnect between societal needs and the opinions of some professional nurse educators. After all, their programs are full and have waiting lists. They get to pick from the cream of the applicant crop. It’s an academic’s dream. But in the face of predictions of dire shortages of skilled nurses in the coming decades, we still see both a societal need and educational opportunity for expansion of innovative programs that can train more nurses.
The Continuing Nursing Shortage
A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly updates a discussion on the chronic challenge that exists in the United States regarding the supply of RN’s. Data shows that student demand for nursing programs is strong at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with changes in the healthcare landscape driving demand for nurses. But there is more to the picture than this. In The Atlantic, Rebecca Grant notes the centrality of skilled nursing to good patient care, but also demonstrates the enduring reality of a continuing nursing shortage: today, due to an aging population, the rising incidence of chronic disease, an aging nursing workforce, and the limited capacity of nursing schools – this shortage is on the cusp of becoming a crisis, one with worrying implications for patients and health-care providers alike. Data from a number of sources support her contention. Even though nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country, by 2022 the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a shortfall of a million trained nurses for open positions. As Grant notes, researchers predict that the size of the nursing shortage in 2025 could be over twice as large as any shortage since the 1960’s.