The nurse shortage in the United States has been no a secret, but it is projected to be a continuing problem. To fill vacant positions across the nation, hospitals need 116,000 registered nurses, which equals to an 8.1 percent nurse vacancy, according to a 2007 report released by the American Hospital Association. The lack of nurses in the United States is affecting hospital ability to provide patients with adequate care, resulting in more injuries and deaths, as well as resulting in poor working conditions for those currently working as nurses. The shortage has little to do with a lack of qualified applicants and more to do with the lack of qualified faculty and facilities. According to the report "Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing" by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 54,991 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools in the United States because of the lack of faculty, classrooms, budget constraints, and clinical sites and preceptors.
In spite of these problems, more and more students are entering nursing programs and enrollment is improving. From 2008 to 2009, enrollment in baccalaureate nursing programs increased by 3.5 percent, according to a study from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The same study showed that enrollment in master's and doctoral programs also increased significantly, with nursing schools with master's programs reporting an enrollment increase of 9.6 percent and those with doctoral programs reporting a 20.5 percent increase. The largest growth can be seen in Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, with a reported 40.9 percent increase in enrollment. The need for nurses to complete their education on higher levels past a bachelor's is especially great, as there is already a need for qualified nursing faculty and this need will only increase as current instructors begin to retire.
For those entering the nursing field, the chance of employment is excellent and job opportunities are expected to grow faster than average compared to other professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that over 581,500 new positions for registered nurses will be created by 2018, increasing the workforce by 22 percent. It also projected that employment opportunities will not grow by the same rate in every area of health care, and registered nurses can expect the following industries to have the highest areas of employment: physician's offices, 48 percent; home health care services, 33 percent; nursing care facilities, 25 percent; employment services, 24 percent; private and public hospitals, 17 percent.