Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?

Everywhere you look there’s talk about a nursing shortage. Those already in the field complain about short staffing on the units they work, while new graduate nurses aren’t being hired for their first job as quickly as they thought. What’s the discrepancy here and why is there a so-called nursing shortage?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret….there isn’t a nursing shortage! Many factors come into play for the reason new nurses are having trouble finding a job and units are chronically short-staffed. 

The first factor that comes into mind is oversaturation of nursing graduates. On average, there are 12 applicants for every one position available. I believe this statistic because in my area alone there are 4 nursing schools all within the same zip code. If the average class graduates 50 students each year, then that equates 200 students looking for employment all at the same time.  Apply this formula to every nursing school in the country and the number of yearly graduates is exponential.

The next factor to consider is that many hospitals are looking to Magnet certification to measure the strength and quality of their nursing staff.  Magnet status means that hospitals are hiring BSN graduates only- this leaves associate degree, LPNs (or LVNs), and diploma nurses out in the cold regardless of years of experience. 

Although some hospitals only want to hire BSN or higher prepared nurses because of Magnet status, all nursing schools don’t have BSN programs. There are still a number of schools that offer LPN/LVN and associate degree programs, in which those graduates will have an even harder time finding a job after graduation.

I’ve heard rumors that hospitals in my area have been in a hiring freeze.  Some may not agree, but why else would the hospital run units so short-staffed?  Either they’re on a hiring freeze or they don’t care that units are short-staffed. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

We also have to remember that hospitals are businesses.  Businesses want to cut costs in order to increase profit. What better way to do this then by limiting the amount of nurses hired on? Nurses do make up a majority of a hospital’s overall expenditure. 

The last factor to consider is older nurses who have not yet retired from the profession. This leaves fewer jobs available for the new graduates who apply after graduation. I know many nurses who have been working 20+ years and have no plans on retiring anytime soon since the economy took a downturn a few years ago.

Do you agree or disagree that there’s a nursing shortage? Feel free to share your experiences!


In addition to working as a RN, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, to be released later this year. Visit her ReNursing blog at http://renursing.wordpress.com.