Nursing Employment Increased Between 2001, 2003, Study Finds
Hospitals and other health care facilities hired about 205,000 nurses between 2001 and 2003 -- potentially the largest two-year increase in nursing employment since before the launch of Medicare in 1965 -- and nurses older than age 50 accounted for 63% of those hired, according to a study published on Wednesday on the Web site of the journal Health Affairs, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the study, led by Peter Buerhaus, associate dean for research at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, researchers analyzed data from a Census Bureau employment survey to find trends in the nursing workforce.
According to the study, employment of nurses older than age 50 increased at an average annual rate of about 20% between 2001 and 2003, and employment of foreign-born nurses increased an average of 12.5% annually over the same period. Employment of male and married nurses also increased, the study found.
The increase in nursing employment between 2001 and 2003 resulted in part from higher wages, researchers said. According to the study, the average hourly wage for a hospital nurse increased 1.8% between 2002 and 2003, from $23.80 to $24.22, and 4.9% between 2001 and 2002, from $22.67 to $23.80. In addition, hospitals have paid signing bonuses of as much as $10,000, offered educational loan forgiveness programs and other benefits to attract nurses, researchers said. They added that the recent economic downturn also might have encouraged retired nurses to return to work and current nurses to work more hours, the study found.
However, the U.S. nursing shortage remains "far from resolved," with an increase in retired nurses and the aging baby boomer population likely to "threaten to aggravate the shortage in the decades ahead," the Journal reports. According to the Bureau of Health Professions, the demand for registered nurses will increase to 2.8 million by 2020 from two million in 2000 (Windham, Wall Street Journal, 11/17). An abstract of the study is available online.