COLUMBIA - Rural Missouri is struggling more than metropolitan Missouri in the nationwide nursing shortage.

According to a study by MU, rural Missouri counties experience nursing shortages at a greater rate than the state’s metropolitan counties. Ninety-seven of the 114 Missouri counties are experiencing nursing shortages, and most of those counties are rural.

In addition, the study found rural Missouri counties have a higher percentage of older nurses nearing retirement, which could have a severe impact on the future of the state’s nursing workforce. Between 42% to 58% of nurses are older than 55 and nearing retirement, according to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

Anne Heyen, an assistant teaching professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, worked on the study.

“In some of these rural areas where nearly half of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement, now is the time to be proactive and start thinking about who is going to replace them 10 years down the road,” Heyen said. “Research has shown nurses tend to stay and work where they are educated, which can influence young nurses to stay in urban areas where there tend to be more educational resources.”

The study also found there are more job opportunities and higher pay for nurses in major cities.

“The overall goal of this research is to make sure everyone in Missouri ultimately has access to the health care they need, regardless of where they live, and identifying where the nursing shortages occur is a key first step," Heyen said.

MU hopes that the completion of the new nursing school building will help them get more nurses out into the Missouri workforce.

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