Understanding the Nursing Workforce In An Era of Health Reform


Last week marked Nurses Week, dedicated to the care nurses provide patients and their families across the country. The Michigan Health Council is dedicated to Michigan’s 160,000 nurses through the Michigan Center for Nursing.

In addition to celebrating the contributions nurses make each and every day in the lives of countless Michigan residents, the MHC would like to recognize how the nursing workforce will be impacted in an era of health care reform.

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The New England Journal of Medicine highlighted four uncertainties about the nursing workforce:

One of the first concerns cited in the article is ensuring our education and training systems meet the need of the anticipated demand for new nurses during the next 20 years. In order to meet demand through 2030, America’s nursing workforce must grow by 20% per decade.

The authors also identify maldistribution of the nursing workforce to be a major concern. The western and northeast portions of the United States have the oldest portions of the current workforce, leading to a projected under-supply of nurses moving forward, while the south and midwest is projected to have double digit supply increases during the next two decades.

The third item identified by the authors is the impact on-going economic recovery will have on the nursing workforce. As highlighted in the Michigan Health Council’s 2012 Survey of Nurses, the economic recession greatly increased the supply of nurses, leading to less opportunity in some parts of the nursing labor market. As the economy improves, how many nurses (or potential nurses) will have given up on nursing careers due to a short-term lack of opportunity to replace those nurses who retire?

Finally, there is little understanding of how new models of team-based care will impact the nursing workforce – or the demand for all health care professions. Nurses could be responsible for a wide variety of new health care tasks, from managing health care teams to leading patient-centered medical homes.

However the ACA impacts health care workforce, the Michigan Health Council will continue it’s 70-year tradition of developing sustainable programming that provides solutions for Michigan’s employers, educators and professionals.

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