Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, CNL, director of the Nursing Leadership Institute and associate professor at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing in Boca Raton, FL, also emphasizes the need for sufficient education as the workforce continues to age.
"It is important we ensure that professional knowledge gets transferred to our next generation of nurses," she says.
Still, right now many novice but educated nurses are finding job opportunities are slim.
"With an increased availability of experienced nurses, many hospitals have elected to either reduce the number of new graduates they are hiring this year or are not hiring new graduates at all," says Sherman.
Despite this, she notes nursing leaders are now able to staff their units with experienced nurses, and turnover in most employment settings has dropped significantly. Furthermore, traditionally hard-to-fill units, such as medical surgical and telemetry, have benefited from these trends.
"In academic settings, we are seeing more nurses returning to school to continue their education and make themselves more marketable," says Sherman. "This is very good for the profession."
Looking to the future, Buerhaus recommends healthcare providers make efforts to improve their ergonomic environment and minimize physical strains on the workforce. As a result, seasoned nurses may be less likely to depart their hospitals once spouses are re-employed and the economy picks up.
Novice or experienced, all nurses are needed to face the challenges ahead.
"Healthcare reform debate is moving forward and my hope is that policymakers and legislators will realize that unless there is an investment in the nursing workforce, the goal to expand healthcare coverage and increase quality will not be met," Buerhaus says. "If we expect large shortages to develop, they will be even larger when 45–55 million people are granted economic access to healthcare."