Excuse the length of my post, but I have looked long and hard at this question. I am a downsizee who's working on a second career. I can't afford to waste time on another career, just to be laid off.
Therefore, I've done a lot of homework, and I don't think there's too much to worry about, even though there are many people going into nursing, and even though there are tons of RNs on this board who will tell you there's no "real" shortage.
The primary reason is that the nursing shortage is expected to increase to 800,000 vacant positions in the next 16 years. So, even if there is increased supply, that still leaves a lot of room for job stability. Keep in mind that there are many reasons for the shortage. To name just a few:
* While many students major in nursing, more than 80 percent don't make it, either in pre-reqs, nursing school
itself, or they don't pass the NCLEX, limiting supply. You'll see this first hand in school.
* The average age of RNs is 47, and half a million nurses are expected to retire in the next 16 years, limiting supply.
* Aging baby boomers are expected to increase demand for RNs, 11,000 more positions this year alone and, the above mentioned 800,000 positions long term.
So why do nurses say there's no "real" shortage? They point to this U.S. Health Department report (my primary source for the above mentioned info) which says 500,000 licensed nurses aren't working.
The reason, they say, is that many nurses have left the profession due to lousy working conditions. While I have no doubt that working conditions are a contributing factor, it's not the whole story.
70 percent of those people are over age 50, and many may be on the verge of retiring. Not surprizingly, retirements and deaths jumped to 175,000 from a relatively stable 25,000 in the last two surveys. So we don't really know how many of those people are choosing not to work (i.e. lousy working conditions), versus those who simply can't work.
But here's the bottom line for the future: Even if you assume that the pool of 500,000 non-working licensed RNs increases to 650,000 (at the same rate that pool has increased in the last decade) ...
And even if you assume that working conditions improved, and all of them could and would return to work (although it's highly unlikely due to advanced age) ....
You'd still have a "real" shortage since it wouldn't come close to filling those 800,000 projected vacancies. So, even if the supply side increases (with more nursing school grads and/or foreign nurses) it still leaves a lot of room for job stability ... Mostly because of increased demand from aging baby boomers.
I'd say the nursing shortage will last another 20 years and, probably, longer.