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Insider’s Guide to the Looming Nurse Shortage


The nursing profession has evolved since its inception in the 1800’s. Today, various healthcare facilities employ the professionals to assist with patient care, and the practice is now a well-paying profession. Despite this, America’s growing healthcare needs are creating a nursing shortage. Additionally, nurses who seek more challenges in the workplace are taking on roles in advanced nurse practices as the United States healthcare system seeks alternatives to satisfy the nation’s doctor shortage.

In the Beginning

Nursing has evolved in status and scope since its inception. Florence Nightingale – the mother of modern nursing – gave birth to the field with her work during the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. Nightingale entered the healthcare field at a time when the public viewed hospitals as a place for hospice rather than healing, and society’s female exiles filled the nursing pools.

Today, the public views nurses as honored professionals, and citizens depend on healthcare institutions to help them recover from many illnesses. Although women still dominate the nursing field, public perception that nursing is solely a woman’s profession is slowly fading away.

Nursing Career Overview

The modern nurse works in many settings; hospitals, private practice offices, in-home nursing services, detention centers, the armed forces and special healthcare facilities all employ professional nurses. [1] Doctors depend on nurses to act as their eyes and ears in the healthcare setting. Patients also look to nurses for emotional support in difficult times; the public views the practitioners as caregivers in addition to their healthcare roles. Overall, nurses provide patient services ranging from teaching preventive healthcare to managing life-threatening illnesses.

Nursing by the Numbers

The American Nurses Association (ANA) forecasts that nurse job openings will jump 20 percent – up to around three and a half million positions – by 2022. [2] This increase represents over a half million new nursing jobs. The association states that healthcare institutions will pay each nurse nearly $70,000 annually. With more responsibility, and employment in the right location, some nurses will earn over $130,000 per year. Almost half the country employs more than one nurse for every 100 citizens per capita. Finally, the association states that, of all careers, the nursing profession ranks the highest among all professions requiring only an associate’s degree for entrance; however, the report emphasizes that among nurses earning their bachelor’s degree 67 percent had job offers upon graduating.

The Future Nursing Labor Market

As Baby Boomers come of age, the United States anticipates a severe nursing shortage. US academic institutions are straining their resources trying to keep pace with the growing demand for professional nurses. The large nursing segment headed for retirement exacerbates the nursing shortage issue. The segment represents 40 percent of the entire American nursing pool. Analysts predict that these combined factors will contribute to a one million nurse shortage by the year 2020.

Nursing employment demand differs from most other occupations, because job demand is not directly influenced by the economy. Instead, demand surges and wanes with the aging population’s growth or decline.

Many Nurses Pursue Increased Responsibility

16,000 nurses advanced through nurse practitioner (NP) programs in 2014. [3] With Universal Healthcare’s arrival, institutions are meeting the demand for doctors with NP’s. This demand has driven NP starting salaries as high as $150,000. Over 250 institutions offer various nurse practitioner learning tracks that can take anywhere from 16 months to four years to complete.

Some nursing advocates are pushing for more opportunities for registered nurses to leapfrog directly to a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DPN). These programs are already available and consolidate many prerequisites for the advanced nursing career track. Despite the salaries and recognition that nurses enjoy, the nurses who pursue these advanced degrees do so because they have a genuine passion for work in the healthcare environment rather than a desire for monetary gain.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Not everyone has the characteristics for a successful nursing career; individuals who prosper in the nursing field have special personality traits that make them a natural fit for the profession. Nurses are adept at expressing complicated ideas to their peers and patients. They function well in a constantly evolving environment. Because work in the healthcare field is not routine, nurses must have the skills necessary to make critical decisions quickly and independently. Successful nurses are also persistently open to learning new concepts. Additionally, amidst the dynamic healthcare environment, nurses are attentive and consistently follow through with the smallest details.

Contemporary society esteems the nursing practice. Although a nursing career is financially rewarding, analysts forecast that institutions will have great difficulty filling nursing positions due to America’s rising senior citizen population. As the nursing shortage grows closer, the need to employ nurses in advanced healthcare positions further stretches the already limited nursing pool, creating many opportunities for nursing hopefuls.

Learn More

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.


1. Registered Nurses: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [Web Page]. Available at: Accessed 2016.

2. American Nurses Association. Fast Facts 2014 Nursing Workforce. American Nurses Association. August 2014. Available at: Accessed 2016.

3. Pathway from Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner. Hospital Reviews & Ratings By Nursing Peers [Web Page]. Available at: Accessed 2016.

4. Critz, Feagai. Open Journal of Nursing 2014021509422738.pdf. [PDF]. 2014. Available at: Accessed 2016.