MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – A recent Wall Street Journal story about changes in the nursing labor market featured the work of Montana State University nursing professor and healthcare economist Peter Buerhaus.

The story, “Nurses Are Again in Demand,” appeared online Nov. 7 and in the paper’s print edition Nov. 8. Written by reporter Melanie Evans, it noted that unlike trends in previous years, nursing employment is “heating up in many markets, driving up wages and sign-on bonuses for the nation’s fifth-largest occupation.”

Evans reported that the last nursing shortage ended with new nursing graduates filling many positions and the 2008 financial crisis leading older nurses to delay retirement.

However, she noted that as the economy has improved, recruiters say that nurses who held on to their jobs are now retiring or cutting back on their hours.

Yet even with national numbers showing a stable nurse workforce in recent years, there are regional shortages in some pockets of the country, Evans reported.

“The prospect of nursing shortages isn’t as dire as the last shortfall more than a decade ago, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the nation lacked 110,000 nurses,” Evans wrote. “Labor experts say the influx of new graduates is expected to offset the wave of retiring nurses in the coming decade. But projections by Mr. Buerhaus and other researchers, based on analysis of demographic trends and nursing graduation rates, show that won’t be enough to meet growing demand in the coming decade.”

“We have analyzed the growth of the nursing workforce by nine regions of the country,” Buerhaus explained recently to MSU News Service. “Our analysis reveals that states in New England and in the West Coast region of the country can expect slow growth in the supply of registered nurses. In the mountain region that includes Montana, future growth in the number of RNs will be fairly strong, but will lag behind other regions of the country, namely the South. 

“Whether nursing shortages develop in the low-growth regions will depend on the growth in the demand for RNs,” Buerhaus added. “At the moment, the state of Montana is expected to experience shortages of nurses in coming years as demand is projected to outstrip supply.”

In addition to his work as a professor, Buerhaus also serves as director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies.