Why We Don‘t Have Enough Nurses (It’s Not Low Wages)

Consider this: In the San Francisco area, a nurse with a bachelor’s degree can hope to start out with a salary of $104,000. The salary for a nursing professor with a Ph.D. at University of California San Francisco starts at about $60,000.

This goes a long way toward explaining why nursing schools turned away 42,000 qualified applications in 2006-2007—even as U.S. hospitals scramble to find nurses. We don’t have enough teachers in nursing schools and the fact that the average nursing professor is nearly 59 while the average assistant professor is about 52 suggests that, as they retire, the shortage could turn into a crisis. The most recent issue of JAMA (October 10, 1007) reports that in 2005 we had 218,800 fewer nurses than we needed and by 2020, it’s estimated that we’ll be short some 1 million nurses.

Hospitals have had to raise nursing salaries (as well they should), not just because nurses are scarce but because, in our chaotic hospital system, the work can be extraordinarily stressful.   

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