This article explores the status of the New Hampshire nursing workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ (BLS), the ability to obtain work as a nurse, after licensure, is excellent. Despite 2.7 million Registered Nurses (RNs) already employed in the US in 2010, the job outlook is considered “very bright” according to ONetOnline, a partner of The American Job Center Network.
Economists project a 26% increase in job openings “much faster than average” for RNs in the decade between 2010 and 2020. According to a CareerOneStop Occupational Profile for Nurses in New Hampshire in 2011, the state’s nursing needs will increase by 25 percent. The BLS also cites that nurses holding educational advanced degrees will have better job prospects.
Nursing specialties expected to experience greater than average growth include hospitals, doctors’ offices and home health care agencies. Positions that provide care in outpatient surgical centers or outpatient treatment clinics are expected to have the highest rate of growth, as the medical system attempts to initiate the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the graying demographics of the Baby Boomer generation. According to a CareerOneStop Occupational Profile for Nurses in New Hampshire in 2011, the state will generally follow the national trends.
Reasons for the Nursing Shortage
For a combination of reasons, the United States is currently experiencing a nursing shortage. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics update, there will be 1.2 million job openings for registered nurses by 2020 and plans to produce a workforce of that magnitude would be insufficient. According to the New Hampshire Nursing Workforce Initiative Final Report 2002, some factors that have influenced the state’s nursing shortage include:
In 2002, approximately 20% of New Hampshire nurses held active licenses to practice in surrounding states, particularly the higher-paying state of Massachusetts, to which many commuted for employment. In the conclusion of the same 2002 report, the authors refer to “one-third” of the workforce as “mobile.” If the lower New Hampshire wages cannot be increased, perhaps the state can consider a tax deduction for nurses who work in state.
Retirement & the Graying of the Workforce
As early as the 2002 New Hampshire report on nursing, the current state shortage could — and was — easily predicted. The average age of a nurse in this state is remarkably close to the national average, and we can expect some of the same issues to occur on a statewide level. Without replacements — graduating student nurses to fill positions lost to retirement or other means of attrition — the state cannot hope to replace the current annual rate of loss, much less meet an increased workforce need by 25 percent.
Nursing Faculty Attrition
The only group graying faster than clinical nurses is nursing school faculty members. According to AACN’s report on 2011-2012 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants in 2010.”
New Hampshire: Nursing Workforce and Future Needs At-a-Glance
Licensed RNs in New Hampshire: 13,850
Licensed RNs per 100,000: 22.83
According to the only older report available that provided this information, The New Hampshire Nursing Workforce Initiative Final Report 2002, the following demographics were noted for the state’s nurses at the time:
Average Age of RNs in New Hampshire: 44.5 years old
Age Distribution of Licensed RNs in New Hampshire:
•< 30 (9 percent) •30-49 (58 percent) •>50 (33 percent)
Annual Mean Salary (2011): $62,800 or $30.17/hour
Projected Demand for Nurses in 2018: 17,340 nurses: a 25% increase from 2008 (This estimate translates into a probable shortage of nurses in the near future.)
Is New Hampshire Among the Top 10 for Highest Nurse Pay? No
Is New Hampshire Among the Bottom 10 for Nurses’ Pay? No
Does New Hampshire Have an Articulation Agreement? If So, What Kind?
Yes. Joining 24 states and the District of Columbia, New Hampshire has a statewide articulation agreement. According to this issue’s website, “This plan was developed through a collaborative effort of nurse educators, regulators, legislators, and other stakeholders who want to enhance educational mobility for RNs to continue their education toward advanced degrees such as BSNs and MSNs. These agreements are generally accepted by all community colleges and public universities in a given state, though private institutions often choose to participate as well.”
New Hampshire: Outlook for Nursing Jobs
Obtaining specific data and plans for this state has not proven easy. The most comprehensive study available, The New Hampshire Nursing Workforce Initiative Final Report 2002, is a decade old. The current New Hampshire Action Status Coalition Status Report is frankly a list of proposed actions to form new groups “considering” concrete actions. The majority of proposals are specifically noted as “Not pursuing at this time.”
The first step in preparing for a 25 percent increase, in job openings, in a field is to increase the number of students in the field. The Coalition assists with “strategies to transform nursing education through a partnership of ADN and BSN programs and practice partners.”
In other words, the state recognizes that the fastest means of graduating RNs is through a community college program awarding an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and maintaining that workforce requires assistance from those graduates to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).