In 2001, a federal study predicted a nursing shortage by 2010 and a severe shortage by 2020. Nursing shortages occur on a cyclical basis, but the fear was that this time would be different and the shortfalls might be permanent. The authors outlined numerous contributing factors: increasing demand for nurses, an aging workforce, a wider variety of professional options for younger people and falling enrollment in nursing programs [source: Schriver].
While the nursing profession in particular, and the medical community in general, fretted about the looming crisis, prospective nurses saw opportunities — they certainly wouldn't have any difficulty getting hired, and they would be able to pick and choose the positions they wanted.
In 2005, psychologist Philip Tetlock demonstrated in his book "Expert Political Judgment" that, in general, when experts try to predict the future, their predictions tend to be wrong as often as they're right. This turned out to be the case with the feared nursing shortage. Instead of a shortfall, we have a glut. As of September 2014, there were 500,000 morenurses than we expected to have back in 2001 [source: Staiger et al.]. Why? For one thing, enrollment increased. Responding to the gloomy forecast, and anticipating easy employment, more students entered nursing programs — but not enough to explain the glut. The big reason was that older nurses weren't retiring as expected.
As many baby boomers turned 65, they just kept working. It turns out that this phenomenon isn't limited to the nursing profession; plenty of boomers aren't ready to close out their careers yet. With longer life expectancies and better health outlooks, many are choosing to keep on trucking. Some might be trying to augment their eventual retirement funds, while some might still be putting kids through college, and others might simply love their job too much to give it up.
But they will have to retire eventually, and with predictions that the available RN jobs will jump from 2.7 million in 2012 to 3.2 million in 2022, the numbers can't be fudged [source: U.S. Department of Labor]. There will be a nursing shortage in the coming years. It's not a question of if, just when.
Author's Note: How ER Nurses Work
In researching this article I came across the story of a New York City emergency nurse named Lindsey Hallen who was preparing to go to into the Ebola zone in Africa. Offered a last-minute choice between a post as a safety instructor in Liberia or a front-line position in Sierra Leone, she hesitated only briefly before choosing the more dangerous job. As her father remarked, she has the personality of a firefighter who runs into a burning building as everybody else runs out. Good thing such people exist.
- Adriaenssens, Jef et al. "The impact of traumatic events on emergency room nurses: Findings from a questionnaire survey." International Journal of Nursing Studies. Aug. 17, 2011. (Feb. 12, 2015) https://www.academia.edu/5421715/The_impact_of_traumatic_events_on_emergency_room_nurses_Findings_from_a_questionnaire_survey
- Allen, David G. "Hermeneutics: Philosophical traditions and nursing practice research." Nursing Science Quarterly 8.4 (1995): 174-182. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://nsq.sagepub.com/content/8/4/174.short
- Allick, Chantaie. "Sunnybrook Hospital psychiatric nurse retiring after 40 years helping mentally ill." Aug. 19, 2012. (Feb. 12, 2015) http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/08/19/sunnybrook_hospital_psychiatric_nurse_retiring_after_40_years_helping_mentally_ill.html
- American Association of Registered Nurses. "How Severe is Nurse Burnout in the Emergency Department?" The Journal of Nursing. 2007. (Feb. 12, 2015) http://www.asrn.org/journal-nursing/234-how-severe-is-nurse-burnout-in-the-emergency-department.html
- Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. "About Certification." 2015. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.bcencertifications.org/Why-Certify/About-Certifications.aspx
- Brilli, Richard J. et al. "Implementation of a medical emergency team in a large pediatric teaching hospital prevents respiratory and cardiopulmonary arrests outside the intensive care unit." Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 8.3 (2007): 236-246. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.pedsccm.org/FILE-CABINET/pccm/Brilli-METs.pdf
- Digitec Interactive. "Digitec Interactive Announces 2014 Transformer of the Year." Feb. 6, 2015. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.ena.org/about/media/Documents/DigitecTransformer.pdf
- Donaldson, Holly et al. "Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air? An Analysis of the Accuracy of Forecasts in the Political Media." Public Policy 501. Hamilton University. 2011. (Feb. 19, 2015) http://www.hamilton.edu/documents/An-Analysis-of-the-Accuracy-of-Forecasts-in-the-Political-Media.pdf
- Emergency Nurses Association. "About ENA." 2015. (Feb. 16, 2015) http://www.ena.org/about/Pages/Default.aspx
- Emergency Nurses Association. "Why Emergency Nursing?" 2015. (Feb. 16, 2015) http://www.ena.org/membership/Pages/WhyEmergencyNursing.aspx
- Gausche-Hill, Marianne et al. "Pediatric preparedness of US emergency departments: A 2003 survey." Pediatrics 120.6 (2007): 1229-1237. (Feb. 16, 2015) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/120/6/1229.short
- Hartocollis, Anemona. "A Nurse Decides to Get Hands-on in the Ebola Zone." The New York Times. Jan. 16, 2015. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/nyregion/a-nurse-decides-to-get-hands-on-in-the-ebola-zone.html
- Jaimet, Kate. "Retirement: Finding the right time to go." Canadian Nurse. March 2013. (Feb. 12, 2015) http://canadian-nurse.com/en/articles/issues/2013/march-2013/retirement-finding-the-right-time-to-go
- Jezierski, Marlene. "Anita Dorr: Her legacy to ENA." Journal of Emergency Nursing. 22.3 (1996): 258-260. (Feb. 16, 2015) http://www.jenonline.org/article/S0099-1767(96)80129-2/abstract
- Lyneham, Joy et al. "Explicating Benner's concept of expert practice: intuition in emergency nursing." Journal of Advanced Nursing 64.4 (2008): 380-387. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04799.x/abstract
- Majumdar, Archita Datta. "Role of pediatric emergency nursing." MultiBriefs. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.multibriefs.com/briefs/exclusive/role_of_pediatric_emergency_nursing.html
- Schriver, John A. et al. "Emergency nursing: historical, current, and future roles." Journal of Emergency Nursing 29.5 (2003): 431-439. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1197/aemj.10.7.798/abstract
- Shermer, Michael. "Wrong Again: Why Experts' Predictions Fail, Especially About the Future." The Huffington Post. Jan. 5, 2012. (Feb. 24, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-shermer/wrong-again-why-experts-p_b_1181657.html
- Snyder, Audrey et al. "From 'first aid rooms' to advanced practice nursing: A glimpse into the history of emergency nursing." Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal. 28.3 (2006): 198-209. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://journals.lww.com/aenjournal/Abstract/2006/07000/From__First_Aid_Rooms__to_Advanced_Practice.6.aspx
- Staiger, Douglas O. et al. "Registered Nurse Labor Supply and the Recession — Are We in a Bubble?" New England Journal of Medicine. 366.16 (2012): 1463-1465. (Feb. 25, 2015) http://www.nejm.org/doi/ref/10.1056/NEJMp1200641#t=article
- Stewart, Jacqueline. "Emergency Nurse Certifications Do Make a Difference." American College of Emergency Physicians. August 2007. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.acep.org/Clinical---Practice-Management/Emergency-Nurse-Certifications-Do-Make-a-Difference/
- Stokowski, Laura. "Why Aren't Nurses Retiring?" Medscape. Sept. 8, 2014. (Feb. 12, 2015) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/831068
- United States Department of Labor. "Occupational Employment Statistics Query System." Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 2013. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
- United States Department of Labor. "Employment projections: 2012-22 news release." Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dec. 19, 2013. (Feb. 25, 2015) http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro
- Villeneuve, Michael J. "Recruiting and retaining men in nursing: A review of the literature." Journal of Professional Nursing. 10.4 (1994): 217-228. (Feb. 11, 2015) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/875572239490023X