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What is Behind HRSA's Projected Supply, Demand, and Shortage of Registered Nurses?

I. Background

An adequate supply of nurses is essential to achieving the Nation’s goals of ensuring access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. The adequacy of nurse supply varies geographically throughout the Nation, with a general consensus that at the national level currently a moderate shortage of registered nurses (RN) exists. The findings of our analysis suggest that the current RN shortage will continue to grow in severity during the next 20 years if current trends prevail and that some States face a more severe shortage than do others. The growth and aging of the population, along with the Nation’s continued demand for the highest quality of care, will create a surging demand for the services of RNs over the coming 2 decades. At the same time, because many RNs are approaching retirement age and the nursing profession faces difficulties attracting new entrants and retaining the existing workforce, the RN supply remains flat.

The mission of the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (NCHWA) in the Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is to collect, analyze, and disseminate health workforce information and facilitate national, State, and local workforce planning efforts. To meet this mission as it pertains to the nurse workforce, NCHWA collects data on the nurse workforce through its quadrennial Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (SSRN) and maintains two models to project the RN supply and demand: the Nursing Supply Model (NSM) and the Nursing Demand Model (NDM). In this paper, we provide a brief overview of these two models; describe the data, methods, and assumptions used to project RN supply and demand; present findings from the models; and discuss the limitations of these and other models and methods to forecast demand for health workers. [1]