Nursing Shortage Highlighted on ABC News

    • February 26, 2009

As more Americans find themselves out of work each day, and more industries are added to the list of those hit hard by the country’s sinking economy, one sector is facing the opposite problem. Nurses are in high demand. So much so that prospective candidates are being offered tens of thousands of dollars in signing bonuses, vacation packages and opportunities to meet a celebrity if they take a nursing job.

One problem is that despite many open positions, students applying to nursing schools are being turned away at university doors due to lack of funding and lack of faculty. That is contributing to the ongoing critical nursing shortage.

During a recent interview with ABC This Morning, Christine Kovner, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at New York University, warned there aren’t enough nurses to care for an aging population that includes 79 million baby boomers.

“We have older people who are requiring more health care, and so we have more demand,” said Kovner during the interview. “We need more nurses, and we expect that as the nurses retire they won't be replaced by new graduates.”

Kovner and her colleague Carol Brewer, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, are conducting ongoing research facilitated by an eight-year grant awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that tracks the careers of newly licensed nurses. They hope their findings can help find ways to combat the shortage.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recently reported the lowest annual growth in enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs in eight years. Preliminary data from the organization’s fall 2008 survey showed enrollments increased by only 2 percent last year. Considering there are about 116,000 unfilled nursing positions in American hospitals and nearly 100,000 empty nursing and related-care jobs in nursing homes, immediate solutions are critical to keeping the health care system working.

View Kovner’s entire ABC This Morning interview here.