What Will the Demand for Nurses Be in 2018?

demand for nurses 2018By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

As 2017 winds down and we start to look ahead to 2018, the demand for nurses remains strong, particularly for those with a bachelor’s or higher degree. 

“The trend we see is that the United States has an aging population, and as a result the need for nursing services has increased,” said Nicole Smith, PhD, chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C., and co-author of the center’s report, Nursing Supply and Demand Through 2020.

Growth trends in nursing jobs

Improvements in mortality are behind some of the increases in nursing demand, according to Smith. “Illnesses in the past used to be a death sentence. Now they are treatable, long-term illnesses.”


Additionally, the economy and job growth remains strong. People can pay for care, and that increases demand for nurses. 

“The new nurses who are graduating should expect to get jobs,” said Smith, adding that more nursing jobs will exist in metropolitan areas. Rural jobs are harder to fill because salaries are often low.

“It depends on location and geography and the type of nurses,” said Sheldon D. Fields, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, AACRN, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, dean of the School of Health Professions at New York Institute of Technology. 

“In certain areas, there is a shortage – rural areas, more obscure areas where we’ve had population growth,” explained Fields. “The [greatest] demand is in California, New York and Florida.”

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Nurse education and nursing demand

Smith reported a shift in hospitals hiring and seeking more bachelor’s-prepared nurses. But opportunities exist for associate-degree graduates in other settings. 

“The product being put out, which is the large number of associate degree nurses, is not what the market is calling for,” Fields said.

Hospitals have embraced the BSN standard and are seeking to hire nurses with a BSN or MSN, particularly a Magnet-designated facility or one seeking that status. Smith and colleagues reported in 2017 that 66 percent of RNs have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

“In some areas, those associate degree nurses are not finding their jobs, because they are not the preferred worker,” Fields said.

7 Factors Affecting Nursing Demand and Supply 

 In addition to geography and education, several factors influence the demand for nurses, including the supply:

 1. The economy affects job opportunities for new nurses, because experienced nurses will come in and out of the job market depending on their need for income, Fields said. During the Great Recession of a few years ago, many nurses expecting to retire or switch to part-time waited for the economy to improve. 

 2. The nursing workforce is aging and many baby boomer nurses are nearing retirement. AMN Healthcare’s 2015 Survey of Registered Nurses found that 62 percent of nurses age 54 or older said they were already considering or may soon be thinking about retirement. That will open the job market for nurses coming out of school. 

“If you want the [baby boomer’s] job, you will have to have the credentials she had and a little more to compensate for her years of experience,” Smith said. 

3. One big unknown: if Congress and the president repeal the Affordable Care Act and millions of Americans lose coverage, it could negatively affect nursing jobs. Smith and the team at Georgetown estimate 156,000 nursing jobs could be at risk in 2019, due to less demand for health care services. 

4. While nursing demand is strong, employers’ ability to bring in foreign-educated nurses has decreased as immigration policies have changed, creating more job opportunities for U.S.-educated nurses, Smith said. 

5. Nursing schools continue to turn away qualified candidates. Two factors are associated with schools’ inability to educate more nurses: a faculty shortage and limited clinical sites. 

6. Smith and Fields raised a concern that the racial and ethnic composition of today’s nursing workforce does not match the population served. Additionally, it’s difficult for many minority students to afford a BSN program. 

“We are not training an adequate number of culturally relevant and diverse healthcare providers, i.e. nurses, to mirror the cultural and ethnic development of our country,” said Fields, explaining targeted admissions and funds to help support nursing students could help alleviate that imbalance. 

7. Additionally, the nursing profession needs to entice more young people overall to join it due to the existing and upcoming demand for nurses. 

“I don’t think you can underestimate the fact we are not attracting the younger age [group] to keep up the supply,” Fields said.

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