Researchers at first didn't believe the results of their findings: “It just blew our socks off,” said the study's lead author David Auerbach of the RAND Corp.
Auerbach and his colleagues credit an atmosphere that makes it easier for professionals to enter nursing. That includes accelerated degree programs aimed at people with degrees in other fields, and government funding of nursing programs. Healthcare's stability makes it attractive, especially with the recession reducing the number of jobs in manufacturing and other industries, Auerbach added.
The report showed about 165,000 full-time equivalent RNs ages 23-26 in the 2009 workforce, an increase from 2002's figure of 102,000. This growth rate hasn't been seen since the 1970s, researchers said. The 23-26 age bracket reached its peak in 1977, with 190,000 RNs in that age range in the workforce.
The cohort's size could still grow, Auerbach said: “These guys are still going to school; they're not done becoming nurses yet.”
There's also concern if the workforce fits the needs of the population, as there's a stronger need for RNs trained in geriatrics due to an aging population. These nurses also need to work in ambulatory settings, the article said.
Researchers culled 35 years' worth of annual survey data, plus information from two Census reports: the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.