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The nursing shortage in Utah seemed non-existent during the economic crisis. Indeed, at some point, there was a surplus of nurses in the state. However, now that the crisis is over, many of those who have put off retirement are starting to leave and many others are cutting their hours. As a result, the shortage is now starting to be felt after all.

In 2011, some 19,000 registered nurses worked in the state, of which 1,445 were advanced practice nurses. This equated to 16.38 nurses for every 1,000 residents of Utah. About 37% of the workforce were aged between 45 and 59 and the mean annual salary was $61,540, which is below the state average. Fortunately, the cost of living is lower compared to the national average. Between 2005 and 2009, 7,479 new nurses were registered. More students are graduating now, at a rate of 3,121. However, there are just nine schools accredited with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, who had to turn away 401 qualified applicants. One particular problem is that 15% of all nurses in the state work two jobs, which is something that they are likely to give up on soon. It is expected that by next year, there will be a shortage of 4,633 nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shortage will be 6,925 by 2020.

Utah is working particularly hard on increasing the level of education of its nursing workforce. They are focusing on both bachelor’s and doctorate degrees. Special programs are being developed to address this. Furthermore, more nurses will be needed in community care in particular, for which nurse residency programs will be developed. Additionally, the state is making it possible for nurses to be committed to life-long learning. At present, only 28% study towards a bachelor’s degree, with the majority of others choosing associate’s degrees instead. Hence, additional RN to BSN programs are being made available and many of those are available online.

The worry for some experts, however, is that the state may become complacent. As there is no current shortage, particularly compared to other states, it would be all too easy to forget that a crisis is looming. Utah has well-above average birth rates and the existing population is aging, which includes the nursing workforce. Unless the position is made more attractive through incentives and other options, a real nursing shortage crisis will emerge and Utah may not have systems in place to address this.