Nationally, healthcare related careers, and specifically RN jobs will continue to grow at a rate far exceeding the US average for all jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, demand for RNs is expected to grow by an average of 16% per year—more than double the average for all jobs—which is 7%.
As a headline, this data would strongly suggest that the US nursing shortage will not only continue into the foreseeable future, but that the gap between jobs and the availability of qualified nurses will continue to widen. And while this may be true, it is important to remember that employment data is only relevant to us if we are evaluating supply and demand within our local job market.
Cross Country Healthcare, the nation’s leader in primary healthcare staffing, will be publishing a series of documents to help healthcare professionals better understand the US job market and provide insight to help RNs navigate their careers over the next 10 years. The series will explore local job markets by state and metropolitan area, salary variations by location and by cost of living factors, economic and other factors that may be tightening the job market for RNs, the skills gap and ways that RNs can improve their opportunities for both placement and career advancement.
The first article in this series, Where are the jobs? Looks more deeply at local supply and demand for RNs today, and over the next 8 years.
Where are the jobs/nurses?
Using data from 2012 and a study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services that projects nursing supply and demand through year 2025, we can not only gain insight into the future nursing market, but we can extrapolate today’s demand for RNs by state as well. Clearly factors influencing demand for nurses within a specific area include the size of the population, age and overall health of the population, as well as economic factors and the availability of affordable health insurance.
It is estimated that we have about 3.26 million RNs in the US today and about 3.13 million nursing jobs available. Over the previous 10 years, the number of nursing graduates has steadily risen each year and in 2016 we welcomed 157,000 new RNs to the US workforce. This is very important, because the number of retiring nurses is also growing annually, and today, more than 50% of the RN workforce is age 50 or older. It is estimated that over 1 million RNs will reach retirement age in the next 15 years.
The first table provides an estimate of the number of nursing jobs within the top ten states for RNs today as well as a projection of the number of positions that will be available in those states in 2025.
|State*||Nursing Jobs (2017)||Nursing Jobs (2025)||Percent Change|
Currently, many states are facing a shortage of RNs to fill available positions. The states below have the largest demand for RNs today as well as projected demand in 2025.
|State*||Excess Demand (2017)||Percentage of RN jobs unfilled (2017)||Excess Demand (2025)||Percentage of RN jobs unfilled (2025)|
Conversely, despite the overall US shortage of RNs, these states currently have an excess of RNs beyond positions available. The table below also shows the projected trend for 2025.
|State*||Excess Supply (2017)||Percentage of unavailable RN jobs (2017)||Excess Supply (2025)||Percentage of unavailable RN jobs (2025)|
Certainly there are many factors to consider when pursuing a career as an RN. Many involve your individual qualities and your ability to perform the responsibilities at a high level, but location may also be a consideration for you. It is clear from the data presented that nurses in Georgia (7% demand | 2025), for example, will have different career options than nurses in Indiana (-22% demand | 2025) over at least the next 8 to 10 years. But it is also likely that nurses in Arizona, Nevada and other states with a significant nursing shortage may be overworked and faced with burnout while they struggle to fill the demand for RNs in the market. And while markets such as North Carolina, Washington and Oregon appear to be prime locations to start or continue your nursing career, locations such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa may present employment challenges for RNs in the foreseeable future.
One advantage to RNs nationally, and specifically those interested in relocating, is a travel nursing program. Traveling nurses have the ability to fill demand where it is needed, explore many areas of the country and work in a variety of environments. Travel nurses gain significant experience while realizing the benefits of travel within well organized and managed programs and they can certainly use these opportunities to evaluate relocation options. Travel nurses typically start their careers as travelers and potentially end their careers with travel programs as well, but traveling does offer benefits to nurses in all stages of their careers. Skill enhancement and technology access are big drivers. Many RNs also choose travel to gain access to prestigious hospitals and educators; and access to cutting edge healthcare tools and technologies that may not be available in their current market.
For RNs starting their careers today, building them or maintaining them, location should be a consideration. For a complete list of the data presented in this study, including all 50 states, click here.