'Incredible' number of young RNs entering the profession, new research shows

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Nursing home recruiters worried about the prospect of a nursing shortage can take some comfort: The number of registered nurses aged 23 to 26 increased 62% between 2002 and 2009, according to researchers.

This batch of RNs is projected to become the largest group of nurses ever observed, say investigators at the RAND Corporation, Vanderbilt University and Dartmouth College. They note that 10 years ago, researchers expected a shortage of 400,000 registered nurses by 2020 due to low levels of young nurses entering the profession.

If new nurses keep entering the field at current levels, however, researchers say there will be enough registered nurses to fully meet the nation's projected needs by 2030.

"These findings were a real surprise and are a very positive development for the future health care workforce in the United States," said David Auerbach, the study's lead author and an economist at RAND. "Compared to where nursing supply was just a few years ago, the change is just incredible."

The study was published in the December issue of Health Affairs.