The nursing profession needs a shot in the arm, and the clock is ticking. Nearly 700,000 nurses are projected to retire or leave the workforce by 2024, with a critical need for 1.13 million new nurses to replace them or assume new positions created. For women and men considering a career in nursing — or hoping to advance to the next level — the time to act is now.

Supply and demand

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which represents more than 780 member schools of nursing at public and private universities nationwide, points to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment projections, listing registered nursing among the top occupations in terms of job growth during the next half-decade. The registered nurse workforce is expected to rise from 2012's 2.71 million to 3.24 million in 2022 — an increase of 19 percent.

In addition, the “United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast” predicts a shortage of registered nurses nationwide between 2009 and 2030.

“... an aging population and nursing workforce, along with the limited capacity of nursing schools, is cause for alarm.”

Only getting worse

Talk of a nursing shortage is nothing new, but the latest numbers are concerning. A 2016 article published in the Atlantic states that an aging population and nursing workforce, along with the limited capacity of nursing schools, is cause for alarm. Of America’s three million nurses, roughly a million of them are over 50, with one-third of the current workforce reaching retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years.

To add to that, a report from the National Council on Aging finds that approximately 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, requiring treatment from nurses and other healthcare providers.

Answering the call

Because of the large number of nurses facing retirement, those already in the profession may want to expand their education through certifications or master's programs to qualify for vacant leadership positions. Doing research online is one option.

For individuals considering a career that offers stability and flexibility, the American Nurses Association's website outlines available benefits, specialties and job opportunities. These may include working at a hospital, community health center, medical office, clinic or assisted-living facility.