AACN Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage - December 2020

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AACN Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage

By Jenn Bodine, DNP, FNP-C, NPD-BC, CEN

It is anticipated that the United States needs over 1 million new nurses by 2022 to avoid a nursing shortage (Letourneay, 2020). Furthermore, there is an expected shortage of approximately 510,000 registered nurses (RNs) by 2030, mostly concentrated in the United States' southern and western regions (Zhang et al., 2018). In September 2020, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) updated their Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage located on their website. Nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners should review this fact sheet along with the accompanying web resource, About the Nursing Shortage, to stay abreast of the legislation that surrounds this concern and strategies that can help alleviate the burdens created by the shortage.

According to the AACN (2020), several issues contribute to the nursing shortage. While enrollment for nursing programs has increased, it will not be adequate to counteract the shortage. Additionally, the shortage of nursing faculty and clinical preceptors hinders admitting the additional students necessary to negate the shortage. Also, Baby Boomer nurses are nearing retirement. It is anticipated that 1 million RNs will retire by 2030, and with them goes their years of professional experience—professional experience that will be needed to care for the 82 million people, 65 and over, with complex health issues (AACN, 2020; Buerhaus et al., 2017). Finally, many RNs are leaving the profession due to increased stress levels, exacerbated by the global pandemic (AACN, 2020; Letourneay, 2020).

What are the implications for NPD practitioners as we face the nursing shortage? Most solutions center around academic partnerships between universities and healthcare systems to provide additional clinical preceptors and nursing faculty (AACN, 2020). However, NPD practitioners will need to consider strategies for closing the experience-complexity gap associated with the exit of Baby Boomers from the workforce. View ANPD’s webinar The Experience-Complexity Gap: A Different-in-kind Nursing Shortage and listen to the Experience-Complexity Gap podcast where Carol Boston-Fleischhauer, JD, MS, RN discusses approaches to close the experience-complexity gap. Finally, NPD practitioners can provide education and resources that can help nurses avoid burnout. Watch ANPD’s webinar Clinical Well-Being: What is Our Role? Where Sharon Paapas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN and Jillian Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC discuss how NPD teams can act on the recommendations made in the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s report, Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2020, September). Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage. https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/News/Factsheets/Nursing-Shortage-Factsheet.pdf

Buerhaus, P., Auerbach, D., & Staiger, D. (2017, May 3). How should we prepare for the wave of retiring Baby Boomer nurses? HealthAffairs. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170503.059894/full/

Letourneau, R. M. (2020, November 20). Amid a raging pandemic, the US faces a nursing shortage. Can we close the gap? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/amid-a-raging-pandemic-the-us-faces-a-nursing-shortage-can-we-close-the-gap-149030

Zhang, X., Tai, D., Pforsich, H., Lin, V. W. (2018). United States registered nurse workforce report card and shortage forecast: A revisit. American Journal of Medical Quality, 33(3), 229-236. doi: 10.1177/1062860617738328

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