Hospitals hired 9% more nurses last year, but almost all the new hires were over age 50 or foreign-born, according to an analysis in the November-December issue of Health Affairs (purchase required).
Reviewing results of a U.S. Census Bureau employment survey, the study found that hospitals hired 100,000 new nurses in 2002, though nursing employment in nonhospital settings, such as nursing homes and doctors' offices, dropped by almost 1%.
Study co-author Peter Buerhaus, associate dean of Vanderbilt University's nursing school, writes that the increase in hospital hires was probably driven by a 5% increase in wages for hospital nurses and widespread U.S. layoffs, forcing retired nurses who are married to laid-off workers to get back into the job pool.
The study adds that while older nurses streamed into hospitals, employment of nurses age 35 to 49 grew by just 4.5%, and numbers of nurses younger than 35 dropped by 8%.
Buerhaus notes that nursing schools turned away more than 5,000 qualified applicants in the past year because of shortages of faculty and classroom space.