Nursing Employment: What's in Store for the Future?

By Sue Heacock on Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Nursing EmploymentNumbers don’t lie. 

Below are the projections by the Department of Labor for nursing employment. You will see there is a 22% increase in need from 2008 to 2018! We are already 4 years into this projection.



Projections data from the National Employment Matrix

Occupational Title

SOC Code

Employment, 2008

Employment, 2018




Registered Nurses






We have all heard such terms as “nursing shortage”, “nursing school waiting lists”, and “retention improvement”.  So what is the current state and future of nursing?

Let’s Talk Shortage

There are a myriad factors contributing to the shortage. They include: lack of qualified nursing instructors, ever decreasing funds for training programs, and difficult working conditions. Many nursing positions (i.e. ICU and ER) require expertise that limits the hiring of new graduate.

So we have over 2.5 million existing RNs and need to add 580,000 more RNs to the workforce. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 195,307 candidates passed the NCLEX in 2011 (  According to a "Nursing Management Aging WorNursing Employmentkforce Survey" 1,000 nurses—predominantly nurse managers— were polled and 55 percent of respondents intended to retire between 2011 and 2020. Things don’t appear to improve thereafter, when 25.5 percent of respondents expect to leave the workplace”. Math has never been my strength, but even I can clearly see that the addition of new nurses is not keeping up with attrition or increased professional demands.

Let’s Talk Improvement Strategies

We can clearly see the problem. Let’s look at what I consider the top four solutions to this problem:

  1. Work from home. Obviously this solution does not work for every nursing situation. However, workers today value time over money, less stressful work, more free time, entrepreneurships and freelancing. Consider looking at your positions and considering partial of full telecommuting for some nurses.
  2. Work on the image. This is two-fold. Organizations need to work on their image to attract and retain qualified nurses.  Individual nurses need to work on our professional image. We continually rank high year to year as a trusted profession. We need to give positive voice to our profession and walk the talk.  Instead of complaining about nursing shortages in your organization, come up with an innovative solution and let the press know. When you see a negative article in the local paper on nursing, write a letter to the editor to refute that.
  3. Work on recruiting more nursing students.  Yes, I know there is a shortage of nurse educators and student slots. We need innovative ways to overcome this problem. I found a program in San Diego, CA where "6 hospitals have committed 1.3 million to support a program called 'Nurses Now!'", which added faculty and additional student slots to the San Diego University (Kutcher, K. (2000, June 9). Six hospitals help fund “Nurses Now!: $1.3 million effort to boost graduate in the field. The San Diego Union-Tribune, p. B1.). Developing public/private partnerships is key in addressing the nursing shortage.
  4. Work on retention. Nursing retention within an organization begins with how valued they feel. This includes pay, concerns from management, education and training opportunities, benefits, and support. Start a nurseNursing Employment retention group with your management team. Determine why there is a retention problem and how to resolve that problem within your organization. It costs thousands of dollars to train a new RN and when a nurse leaves your organization he/she is also taking a vast amount of knowledge and experience with them. 

These are the facts about the state of nursing employment today. As you can see, we have a lot of work to do! Like every positive change, it begins with you!


Anonymous 3 years ago
Sue, Excellently written piece, thank you for pulling it together. I remain curious why new grads are finding it so difficult to get positions, any thoughts?