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Despite Americans' High Regard, Nursing Shortage Still Looms

Nursing work force researchers announce results of landmark studies at Washington, DC, press conference.

PITMAN, N.J., May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite a temporary lull in the country's nursing shortage, data point to a gathering storm that will be "like a Category Three hurricane, but one that hits the entire nation," according to Peter Buerhuas, PhD, RN, FAAN, a leading work force analyst.

Buerhaus, a Vanderbilt University professor, and his colleagues released the latest data from three studies on the nursing industry during a May 6 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. They predicted dire numbers for the shortage; however, the research was more positive regarding the high public regard of the nursing profession. Also, researchers went to the source -- nurses themselves -- and asked for their opinions on the upcoming presidential election, their views on U.S. health care policy and how they feel about their own profession.

The current nursing shortage began in 1998, Buerhaus said, and according to his latest data, could spike to 500,000 by 2025. Colliding forces, including an aging nursing work force and a surge in demand for health care as 78 million baby boomers reach age 65, do not bode well for the future.

"A shortage that size could incapacitate the health care system," Buerhaus said. "Low nurse staffing affects the quality of care and there is a clear impact on patients."

At the press conference, Buerhaus and Karen Donelan, ScD, senior scientist at the Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, outlined the major points of their article, "Public Perceptions of Nursing Careers: The Influence of the Media and Nursing Shortages," to be published in the May/June issue of Nursing Economic$ journal. Beth Ulrich, EdD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president of Professional & Consulting Services for Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek, announced results of the latest national survey of registered nurses which included RNs' views of health policy issues and solutions and the upcoming elections.

Key findings from the three studies included the following:

• A downturn in the economy has driven many retired nurses back into the work force. However, increased demand by boomers and the aging nursing work force will make this only a brief reprieve.

• In the health policy survey of nurses, 30% felt Hillary Clinton would do the best job reforming the system; 14% chose Barack Obama, and 11% picked John McCain.

• In that same survey, RNs said the most important health care problem the government needs to tackle is access to care/lack of insurance (34%), with health care costs a close second (28%).

• The third survey of 1,600 Americans regarding their perceptions of the nursing profession showed 70% of the public view a nursing career as positive or very positive.

To ease the shortage, Buerhaus said a national strategy must be developed to recruit and retain nurses and attract men and other demographic groups to the profession. There also needs to be additional funding for nursing education programs, as a shortfall in faculty is contributing to the shortage.

The press conference was sponsored by Nursing Economic$ and Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek. Nursing Economic$ will be publishing additional articles about the research in upcoming issues. More information can be found on the Nursing Economic$ Web site,

SOURCE Nursing Economic$
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