The latest assessment by the American Hospital Association (AHA) reveals that there are 126,000 vacancies for registered nurses (RN) in hospitals alone. AHA terms the shortage the “most critical manpower problem facing hospitals across America.” Community colleges play a key role in educating nurses: 60 percent of all U.S.-educated RNs who entered the field in 2000 received their education at the associate degree in nursing (ADN) level, and 79 percent of ADN recipients graduated from community colleges. Research into the problems and prospects of the nursing profession and the role of community colleges in nursing education reveals the following:
- Between 1996 and 2000, the number of registered nurses per 100,000 persons declined 2 percent in the United States.
- Many of the states with the largest proportional declines of registered nurses also have the fastest growing retiree populations.
- ADN programs are important gateways to the nursing profession for underrepresented groups.
- Recent initiatives to restrict the scope of practice for RNs who hold associate degrees could exacerbate the nursing shortage.
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