The Medical Community Braces for Nursing Shortages

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COLUMBIA - The local medical community braces for a nursing shortage that is expected to happen over the next few years. Bureau of Labor Statistics' predicts a 26 percent increase in registered nursing positions between 2010 and 2020.

With more positions to be filled, more inividuals need to be educated to qualify for these jobs. However, numbers of those entering into this workforce has not been increasing.

Many nursing programs only accept a fraction of applicants into their programs. MU nursing student, Elizabeth Huck, says her program is extremely competitive. She went through two recruitment cycles before she was accepted into the program.

"It's nerve-wracking, and the first time I applied and did not get in, it was devastating," Huck said, "And even now that I am in the program, it is extremely demanding."

Nursing programs are not producing enough graduates to compensate for the increase in positions, and also for nurses who are retiring. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the current age of registered nurses is 44.5.

If the expected shortage does come about, medical professionals are nervous about how that could affect care of patients.

"If I was in a hospital setting and that was an issue, it would be very concerning to me that the care might be sub-optimal." said Dr. Scott Schultz.

The shortage is thought to come about later than originally expected. When the economic crisis began in 2008, registered nurses held off on retiring. This has slowed the process of the shortage, but only temporarily.