The Future Of The Nurse Shortage: Will Wage Increases Close The Gap?


Joanne Spetz, Ruth Given

December 1, 2003

In recent years the U.S. media have been reporting a shortage of registered nurses (RNs). In theory, labor-market shortages are self-correcting; wage increases will bring labor markets into equilibrium, and policy intervention is not necessary. In this paper we develop a simple forecasting model and ask the question: How high must RN wages rise in the future to end the RN shortage? We find that inflation-adjusted wages must increase 3.2–3.8 percent per year between 2002 and 2016, with wages cumulatively rising up to 69 percent, to end the shortage. Total RN expenditures would more than double by 2016.

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