Looking Ahead: Nursing Shortages and Surpluses Through 2030
The United States is entering a period rife with health care demands. At the current rate, we will soon see unprecedented need for registered nurses (RNs) to serve an aging baby boomer population. At its current pace, demand will outstrip supply in specific states and regions. Thankfully, surplus in some states bodes well for a looming shortage in others. There’s a bright decade ahead for travel nursing.
A look at projections
There are several major factors contributing to the impending fluctuation of available nursing talent, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
While the aging population of baby boomers is driving demand for RNs, as many as half of the current nursing workforce are themselves baby boomers. Though nursing ranks in the top 10 occupations for job growth, this growth will be unevenly distributed. States in the south and west are liable to face intense shortages, while northeastern states will likely veer toward surplus. According to RegisteredNursing.org:
- California expects to see the largest dearth of new nursing candidates. Demand for nurses could reach as high as 387,000 by 2030, with supply expected to fall some 44,500 nurses short, with an estimated 343,300 RNs in the state.
- Florida represents the high end of the surplus side of the scale. With 240,000 new nurses needed to meet demand by 2030, the state expects to add 293,700 nurses to the workforce. This 53,700-nurse surplus more than meets the deficit in California alone.
- Other states facing major nursing shortages include Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia. Offsetting these shortages, states with surplus talent by 2030 will include Ohio, Virginia, New York, and a cluster of mid-Atlantic states.
In total, the U.S. expects to add 795,700 new RN positions by 2030. But with the 50 states each governed by different populations, workforce compositions, costs of living, and graduation rates, there’s an inconsistent distribution of nurses.
Travel nursing is the solution
As individual states begin to realize their shortages and surpluses, travel nursing will become even more necessary than it already is. Nurses in “surplus states” will find the job market crowded and competitive, making it harder to find well-paying, stable jobs. Likewise, states with a nursing shortage will need to attract talent through better-paying positions, options for upward mobility, and access to professional development resources.
Travel nursing bridges the gap between the two extremes found throughout the U.S. For example, Iowa is projecting a surplus of 10,100 nurses by 2030, while Alaska expects a shortage of 5,400 by the same time. The average annual median salary of an RN in Iowa is $56,710. In Alaska, that same figure is $86,200. Even for nurses who don’t want to live in Alaska for an extended period of time, the prospect of open positions paying $30,000 more on average annually is an enticing draw.
An industry soon to dominate
Travel nursing is set to experience explosive growth in the next decade. The tailwinds are undeniable, and the opportunities for travel nurses today are plentiful. And while it may not inherently seem like a stable position, travel nursing is well-positioned to be a driver of personal and professional growth over the next decade. Now’s the time to get in, before the shifting scales of supply and demand force mass entry into the travel nursing industry.