Health inequities, inflated costs, and poor health care outcomes are intensifying because of today’s shortfall of appropriately prepared RNs. With 4.2 million active, licensed RNs, nurses are the primary professionals delivering quality health care in the nation. The RN workforce is projected to grow by 19.4 percent from 2012 to 2022, resulting in 1,052,600 job openings. This increase is fueled by technological advancements for treatments, preventive care needs, expanding demand from new health reform enrollments, and accelerating demand from the two million Baby Boomers aging into Medicare every year. The situation is further affected by the needed replacement of some 525,700 jobs vacated by RNs expected to leave the profession and/or retire by 2022.
The nursing shortage continues to outpace the level of federal resources allocated by Congress to help alleviate it. Appropriations for nursing education are inconsistent with the health care reality facing our nation today. It is crucial to fund research to determine whether the demand for health care providers is being met, to develop accurate and replicable models for projecting workforce capacity, to assess the efficient use of the health care workforce, and to evaluate education and workforce activities to increase retention in the nursing profession. Insufficient federal investments in the nursing workforce will diminish human resource development, a shortsighted course of action that further jeopardizes access to, and the quality of, the nation’s health care delivery.