In the News: Stories to Watch in 2009
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "the U.S. will require 1.2 million new RNs by 2014 to meet the nursing needs of the country, 500,000 to replace those leaving practice and an additional 700,000 new RNs to meet growing demands for nursing services."
The good news is that states have begun to address the problem. For example, Kansas in 2006 launched a 10-year, $30 million matching grant program to boost the number of nurses. The program is expected to educate 250 new RNs yearly, but twice that many were funded in the first year. Although funding may be available to increase the number of students, the issue of who will teach them remains. It also remains to be seen how the flagging economy will affect the funding of such promising programs.
Redesigning work settings and workloads to better suit older, experienced nurses could slow retirement losses. For example, hospitals in Connecticut are lessening physical demands by buying mechanical lifts to move patients, and nurses can schedule 12-, eight-, or four-hour shifts from their home computers. A Virginia hospital offers busy nurses concierge services for dry cleaning and movie tickets, according to the Washington Post. Such inducements may need beefing up, however, considering that of all health care workers, RNs reported being the least satisfied in a Press Ganey survey of 200,000 employees at 423 health care organizations.