Arkansas predicted to have 24 percent shortage of nurses by 2015

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas will face a shortage of nurses within the next decade, according to projections from a national public health group.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts the state will have a 24 percent shortage by 2015, and a 34 percent shortage by 2020.


"We do have a lot of nurses that are baby boomers and will be starting to retire," said Arkansas State University School of Nursing chair Dr. Sue McLarry.


Dr. McLarry said baby boomers, people born from 1946 to 1964, may contribute heavily to the shortfall because the first wave of boomers who were set to retire several years ago waited until now.  


"The economy went down, and so a lot of nurses stayed in the workforce instead of retiring like they'd originally planned, or they went from part-time to full-time because they became the primary breadwinner in their family."


Licensed practical nurse Rachel Pacheco with University of Arkansas of Medical Sciences believes the nursing shortage that is expected to hit the U.S. in a few years has already arrived.


"You have maybe six patients or more than that, if a nurse might quit or not come in, so then you have to take over that care for those patients so it puts a lot of stress on the nurse."


The Department of Labor also attributes a shift in nursing employment to baby boomers, but the projection is a 26 percent growth spurt by 2020, due to people living longer and needing continuous care.


"The incidents of chronic illnesses increases in older adults, so, that means when you have chronic illness, more than one or multiple chronic illnesses that you need more healthcare," said Dr. McLarry.  


"The good thing with the Affordable Care Act increasing access to care that has really a kind of a two-pronged piece in that there will be more people seeking care, but it also people that have some of the chronic illnesses that were not getting care are now going to start getting care too."


Pacheco is going to school part-time so that she is prepared to succeed no matter the job outlook.


"I want to get my RN degree because I have more options of work areas where I can work, of jobs, more options of jobs and better pay."


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