Google “nursing shortage,” and the number of hits describing the current shortage will convince you that it is real.

But the funny thing is, some recent graduates of good nursing schools who can’t find jobs. An article on a California website called Comstock’s discussed the situation saying, “It’s not uncommon for recent graduates to wait six months or more to land a job in a local hospital. Many are still unemployed in the field.”

A new graduate nurse commented, “The acute care hospitals want you to have two years of experience, but you can’t go anywhere to get experience because no one will hire you without experience.”

The article pointed out that if unemployed nurses were willing to move to areas in need, they would be more likely to be hired.

It looks like that strategy will work for the next few years, but a report by the US Health Resources Services Division estimates that there will be an excess of about 340,000 nurses by the year 2025. Here is how they figured this out.

This chart shows how they calculated the projected oversupply.
Nurse supply and demand
Futurists working at the Skeptical Scalpel Institute disagree. We predict that by 2025 we may need twice as many nurses in hospitals as we have now.

With the exponential growth of rules and regulations and the complexities of electronic medical record, we anticipate the need for a new branch of nursing—the charting nurse. We predict that by 2025, there will be “doing nurses” (DNs), who will actually be at the bedside dispensing medications and caring for patients, and “charting nurses” (CNs), who will sit at nursing stations all day and document what the doing nurse is doing. This will be facilitated by direct verbal communication links between the two sets of nurses.

Different educational pathways will be established for both types of nurses. For example, DNs might be graduates of diploma schools while CNs would probably need master’s or doctorate degrees in nursing and/or computer science.

Or in another model, we think all nurses will be replaced by robots that are sentient (able to feel and perceive), and 3.8 million people will be job-hunting.

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.