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Thanks to large numbers of people in their late 20s and early 30s who are entering nursing, the huge shortage of about 800,000 nurses that had been expected by 2020 may be less severe. In a report published in Health Affairs, researchers now predict a shortage of 340,000 nurses by 2020.


The lower estimates are due, in large part, to the entry into the profession of people in their late 20s and early 30s, the researchers say. After the events of September 11, 2001, many people decided to switch to a career that they thought would be more meaningful. The report also credits Johnson & Johnson's Campaign for Nursing's Future as having a positive impact. Launched in 2002, the campaign has spent millions of dollars "recruiting more people into nursing and increasing the capacity of nursing education programs."


However, the report also points out that "a shortage of 340,000 is three times larger than the size of the current shortage when it was at its peak in 2001. At that time, many hospitals closed patient programs and nursing units, and the national average hospital RN vacancy rate was 13%."

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Auerbach DI, et al., Better late than never: Workforce supply implications of later entry into nursing, Health Affairs, January/February 2007.