Enrollment in bachelor's degree nursing programs rose 10.6% to 112,081 students in 2004 -- the fourth straight year of increases -- but nursing schools had to reject 26,340 qualified applicants, primarily because of a teacher shortage, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing said. Nursing school enrollment grew 16.6% in 2003, 8.1% in 2002 and 3.7% in 2001, following six straight years of declines. "Our concern is there is a need for nurses, but there is not enough capacity (in schools) to accommodate everyone," said Robert Rosseter, the association's director of public affairs.
According to government projections, the demand for registered nurses will exceed supply by 800,000 positions in 2020. Rosseter cited a study in the November/December 2003 Health Affairs that said nursing school enrollment would have to increase 40% annually over the next decade to meet demand. Physical space at schools is one barrier to faster enrollment growth, but the shortage of faculty is a worse bottleneck. A doctorate in nursing is recommended for nursing school faculty, but there "are not that many of them out there," Rosseter said. -- by Joseph Conn