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Commentary
December 4, 2002

Why This Hospital Nursing Shortage Is Different

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Milano Graduate School, New School University, New York, NY (Dr Berliner), and A. Barton Hepburn Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, New York, NY (Dr Ginzberg).

JAMA. 2002;288(21):2742-2744. doi:10.1001/jama.288.21.2742

The United States is in the midst of a serious major shortage of registered nurses (RNs). This shortage will culminate in the largest deficit of hospital nurses at a time when the demand for their services will be the greatest, ie, after 2010. Nursing shortages have been a relatively common phenomenon in the United States, occurring on a periodic basis—in the late 1950s, early 1970s, late 1980s, and reemerging at the beginning of this decade. In prior years the solution to the crisis was higher wages, better benefits (including changes in scheduling), and overseas recruitment. However, this nursing shortage is different and the emerging challenge will be much greater. This article describes the quantitative dimensions of the emerging nursing shortage and discusses policy solutions currently advanced for dealing with the problem. This contribution is not intended to provide new data or analysis, but rather is meant to draw new conclusions from the existing data and deepen the analysis.

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