At a time when shortages are appearing in the nursing field around the country, enrollment in the nation's schools of nursing is tapering off, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported last week.
If recent statistics gathered by the association are any indication, young people apparently are hearing only the horror tales from the hospital-based nurses. The ranks of new nurses graduating with four-year bachelor's of science degrees fell 6% between 1996 and 1997. That's the third annual drop in a row, the AACN said.
The trend conflicts with healthcare organizations' rising demand for nurses equipped with bachelor's degrees to handle more complex tasks.
Despite a widespread perception -- challenged by some recent statistics -- that hospitals are reducing their nurse staffing ratios, nursing employment is booming in other areas, such as outpatient care and home health. Interest in master's degree nursing programs is rising, reflecting the rosy career opportunities in advanced practice nursing. But it's the decline in bachelor's candidates that worries hospital administrators and nursing school deans.
Nurses are aging along with their patients, the survey also found. The average age of registered nurse graduates is 31. The average age of registered nurses is 44, compared with 40 in 1980.