The number of RNs between the ages of 23 and 26 increased by 62% between 2002 and 2009, according to a study in Health Affairs, which could allay fears about a potential nursing shortage.
In the 1980s and 1990s, declining numbers of young nurses led to projections of a shortage by 2020. Researchers had predicted that the U.S. could face a shortage of up to 400,000 RNs.
For the study, RAND Health researchers examined 30 years of employment data from the Current Population Survey, the American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Bureau. They found that the number of RNs ages 23 to 26 increased from 102,000 in 2002 to 165,000 in 2009.
The study said that accelerated nurse training programs, the economic downturn, and initiatives to make nursing a more attractive career path likely led to the influx. As a result, the supply of nurses will keep pace with population growth through 2030, according to the study.
However, the study did not take into account the effect of the federal health reform law. RAND economist David Auerbach, who led the study, said the overhaul and other employment fluctuations make it difficult to predict how many nurses the U.S. will need in coming years (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 12/6; Quinton, National Journal, 12/5 [subscription required]; Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 12/5 [subscription required]).