This talking points summary concentrates on the possibility of a future shortage of nurses and does not weigh on the present argument regarding an oversupply - or shortage - of nurses. The authors speculate that the aging population and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes derisively referred to as "Obamacare") are likely to increase demand for nurses. While there may be some data to back up the former assertion, there is none for the second. Quite frankly, it looks to me as if large segments of the Affordable Care Act will be neutralized in the very near future, if not by invalidation by the Supreme Court then by legislation after the 2012 elections. Unlike the authors of the article however, I freely admit that is speculation on my part.
The authors also claim that the this speculative shortage will be exacerbated by a potential decline in nursing students, either as a result of a loss of interest by future nursing students or because of the "ongoing bottlenecks" in nursing education. The authors identify nursing faculty shortages and insufficient clinical training sites as the culprits behind the bottlenecks. I would be interested in seeing the data that lead the authors to conclude this. The data I see show nursing enrollment increasing, which to say the least, would seem to obviate the argument that there is a faculty shortage. With respect to clinical site shortages, the authors may be on firmer ground but only because the number of sites available have not kept pace with the increased numbers of nursing students requiring clinical rotations. Actually, given the flood of hospital closings, the number of clinical sites may well have declined. To me however, this argument seems somewhat similar to the one made by the child who, after murdering both of his parents, begs the court for mercy because he is an orphan.
Despite these doubts, I do believe that the authors are right to be worried about a future shortage of nurses, but for very different reasons than the ones expressed in the talking points. Since about 2008, new grad RN's, especially those from ADN programs, have been having a very difficult time find nursing employment. This trend seems poised to continue for some time. It is well-recognized that there is a "expiration" date for new RN's, generally about 12 months after passing the boards. After this date, these RN's become essentially unemployable and so will move to other careers. This is worrisome because it means that the nursing student has invested a significant amount of money and time in training, as has the institution that they attended, and to no effect. It is also worrisome because, should this trend continue, it will have that dampening effect on attracting new nursing recruits that the authors mention.
It is ironic that the authors conclude that
taking actions now that would stop the flow into the nursing profession would be a very risky and unwise gamble
I submit that doing nothing to ameliorate the oversupply of new nurses - and by this I mean increasing the numbers of new RN's that are hired - will have precisely the effect of staunching the flow into the profession that the authors worry about.
Just my two cents. And full disclosure: I'm one of those new RN's now well past the usual sell-by date.