October/November 1999

Demographics Figure Prominently in Nurse Shortage

A recent survey of nurse and human resources leaders by Catholic Health Initiatives’ Nurse Solution Team shows that the vast majority of market-based organizations are being negatively impacted by the current shortage of nurses – or will be soon.

The nurse shortage is a case of declining supply and increasing demand. Nursing enrollments have been decreasing for at least four years, according to the American Nursing Association. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says nursing enrollments dropped 5.5 percent last year. In addition, tight labor markets mean that there are more non-nursing job opportunities available to experienced nurses as well as those coming out of school.

While the supply of nurses dwindles, the demand for nurses is expected to boom, increasing 25 percent in the decade between 1994 and 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Much of the increase in demand for nurses stems from the aging of America: during the next 30 years, the number of seniors over age 65 will almost double, from 34.7 million in 2000 to 69.4 million in 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. And the number of frailest elderly, those age 85 and older, will double during the next three decades, from 4.3 million in 2000 to 8.5 million in 2030.