Nursing Shortage

Facts about the Nursing Shortage

The recession's impact

The United States has experienced a nursing shortage since 2000. During the last two years, the shortage seems to have abated -- making it more difficult for graduates to get jobs in larger towns and cities -- but this is an artificial abatement. More nurses have delayed retirement or have moved to full-time status. Older and more experienced nurses re-entered the job market as spouses lost jobs. Once the economy improves, there is likely to be a dramatic exodus of nurses from the job market.

The shortage is most severe in small towns and rural areas. Lack of care also impedes economic health -- the ability of communities to draw and hold residents and the businesses that employ them.

Factors in the nurse faculty and nursing shortage

Nurse faculty shortage

At the UNMC College of Nursing, 25 percent of faculty are 60 years or over, compared with only 14 percent under 40 – the other end of the career span. Left to natural progression, 25 percent of faculty will retire in the next five years and too few younger faculty will replace them.

A shortage of faculty is a problem for all of the 15 nursing schools in Nebraska. Faculty shortages mean a squeeze on the pipeline of new bedside nurses for the state. The average age is 53 and climbing. Typically lower salaries for faculty means fewer young faculty, since potential faculty earn more in direct patient care. To prepare more nurses, it's imperative to prepare more faculty.

Nursing shortage

One of the major threats to the current and future nursing shortage is the aging of the nursing population which will raise retirement rates to a higher level than the workforce replacement with new nurses.

Large waves of retiring Baby Boomers will dramatically increase demand for nurses, pushing the already serious shortage of nurses to crisis stage in the years ahead. Aging and other issues such as increasing seriousness of conditions, requires more nursing care, which requires more education.

Without action to address Nebraska's nursing shortage it will be even more difficult to provide the appropriate level of nursing care.


  • In 2009, there were 17,735 licensed registered nurses in Nebraska.
  • In 2009, the average age of a Nebraska nurse was 46 years old. About half of all nurses will retire in the next 10 years.
  • By the year 2020, Nebraska will have a shortage of about 3,800 registered nurses.
  • Nine counties in Nebraska have no registered nurses and there are four counties in Nebraska with just one registered nurse representing the whole county.
  • Of Nebraska's 93 counties, 82 have a lower than national average ratio of registered nurses to patients, and more than one-third of Nebraska's counties have no nurse practitioners.
  • Registered nurses represent over 40 percent of the health care workforce in Nebraska. About 58 percent of nurses are employed in hospitals.
  • The projected U.S. nursing shortage in 2020 is expected to grow to a half a million.
  • In Dec. 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the health care sector of the economy is continuing to grow, despite significant job losses in nearly all major industries. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, registered nurses likely will be recruited to fill many of these new positions.


Nebraska Center for Nursing, 2009 Annual Report:

A Critical Match. Nebraska’s Health Workforce Planning Project FINAL REPORT. Nebraska Center for Rural Health Research.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet