Report: Nurse-shortage forecast eases, danger remains

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A surprising rise in new nurses in their late 20s and early 30s has taken pressure off the number of nurses healthcare providers are expected to be lacking by 2020, researchers report. But even the possibility of halving earlier forecasts still means a dangerous shortage of about 400,000 registered nurses could exist in less than 15 years, they say.

"If you can be happy with living with a Category IV hurricane parked off shore, as opposed to a Category V, then be as happy as you want," cautioned researcher Peter Buerhaus, director of Vanderbilt University's Center for Interdisciplinary Workforce Studies in Nashville, TN.

"A shortage of 350,000 to 400,000 would still be more than enough to really damage the healthcare system, maybe even shut it down," he added Friday during an interview with McKnight's Long-Term Care News.

A rise in nurse earnings, a re-examination of life priorities after 911 and major campaigns to recruit for the nursing profession are responsible for the rise, said Buerhaus. He is one of the lead authors of the report "Better Late Than Never: Workforce Supply Implications of Later Entry Into Nursing," which appears in the January/February issue of Health Affairs.