There have been severe nursing shortages in the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. In fact, for the last half century, there has been a chronic nursing shortage that just wanes and waxes in intensity. Even during the cutbacks of the mid-1990s, in California where they were laying off nurses left and right, I had more per-diem and agency work than I knew what to do with.
As some have already pointed out, the shortage right now is not one of lack of nurses, but of lack of tolerable places to work. There are currently 500,000 people who hold an RN license (I'm one of them) but who do not work in nursing. Some are retired, of course, but 130,000 are working full time in other fields, and another 200,000 or so are unemployed, working part time, working freelance, and so on.
So I think there's no need to worry about having a job, or pushing too many students into nursing. The attrition rate of new grads is double from what it was 10 years ago. As fast as schools turn out new nurses, that's how fast others leave the profession.
This may change if hospitals do decide to improve working conditions and treat nurses as professionals.
Then nursing will become a desirable highly sought after profession, and become competitive.
Also, my fear is that this shortage is a ploy to bring in low-cost foreign nurses. Afterall, we are outsourcing all the other jobs in the US, so this is another way of doing it. Then bound by a contract, hospitals will not have to do anything to improve working conditions. Won't have to pay overtime. Can have all the mandatory overtime they want. Can give ICU nurses 4 patients a piece. And so on. :imbar
That too, will cut down the need for US trained nurses.
But at this very moment, jobs are very plentiful and will continue to be so for a while. Nurses are not returning to the profession in droves, there is still a limited number of new grads entering, nurses are still leaving at the same pace they were five years ago, and foreign nurses are still a trickle--albeit getting stronger.