HRSA's Projected Supply, Demand and Shortages of RNs
The report, "Projected Supply, Demand, and Shortages of Registered Nurses: 2000-2020" by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, Department of Health and Human Services was released on July 30, 2002. Using data on supply trends drawn from the 2000 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, supply and demand projections of registered nurses (RNs) for the period 2000 through 2020 are analyzed in this report.
To read full report, go to http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce...ect/report.htm
Declines in Relative Earnings:
Salaries are likely playing a role in the declining supply of RNs. While actual earnings for RNs increased steadily from 1983 through 2000, "real" earnings -- the amount available after adjusting for inflation -- have been relatively flat since 1991. Thus, on average, RNs have seen no increase in purchasing power over the last 9 years.
(See Chart 7) In contrast, the average salary for elementary school teachers has always been greater than that for RNs and is growing at a faster pace.  In 1983, the average elementary school teacher earned about $4,400 more than the average RN; by 2000 this had grown to the point where elementary school teachers earned about $13,600 more. 
Furthermore, a good portion of the wage growth for these nurses appears to occur early in their careers, then taper off with time. In 2000, staff RNs employed full-time in nursing, who graduated 5 years earlier, typically earned wages 15 to17 percent higher than those newly entering the field, depending on basic nursing preparation, but only 1 to 3 percent less than nurses who graduated 15 to 20 years earlier. As their potential for increased earnings diminishes over time, staff nurses may be motivated to leave patient care for additional education and/or other careers in nursing or outside the profession.....