20 Main Reasons Behind The Demand For Registered Nurses For The Next Decade

Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of available jobs for registered nurses locally, nationally, and internationally. While the need for nurses is promising for individuals looking for long-term job security, it may leave you wondering, “Why is there a demand for registered nurses?” In this article, I will answer that question by sharing my thoughts about the 20 main reasons behind the demand for registered nurses for the next 10 years and provide you with some insight into why this is the perfect time to be part of the nursing profession.

What is the Estimated Demand for Registered Nurses for the Next 10 Years?

The next ten years look to be promising for registered nurses when it comes to employment growth. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects RNs will see an increase of 177,400 jobs, from 3,172,500 to 3,349,900. This growth equals a 5.59% increase and will occur between 2022 and 2032.

in 2022
in 2032
Projected New Employment
Growth (2022-2032)
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Why is There a Demand for Registered Nurses for the Next Decade?

(The following are the 20 main reasons behind the demand for registered nurses for the next 10 years.)

REASON #1: There Is Increased Access to Healthcare Services

One of our most important commodities is our health; to protect and maintain it, we must have adequate healthcare services. Major efforts have been made to expand insurance coverage and access to quality healthcare services in the United States. As access to services increases, the need for qualified healthcare professionals to provide services also increases, which is one of the reasons registered nurses will be in demand now and in the future.

REASON #2: People Are Experiencing More Complex Healthcare Needs

According to an article published by the American Association of Physician Assistants, patients today are experiencing more complex and chronic healthcare issues. As patients continue to develop more complex health issues, the need for qualified nurses to care for them increases, which is why the demand for registered nurses is expected to continue.

REASON #3: People Are Becoming More Aware of the Importance of Preventive Care

Preventive healthcare reduces the risk of illnesses, diseases, disabilities, and death. As society becomes more aware of the importance of preventive care and its long-lasting impact on promoting positive outcomes, more people become involved in preventive health efforts. To make these efforts attainable, there is a greater demand for registered nurses to provide education and assist in preventive health screenings.

REASON #4: More People Understand the Difference Between Health Promotion & Health Recovery

It is one thing to be sick and to implement measures to regain good health and another thing altogether to promote and maintain good health before a decline in one’s health status occurs. As people become more educated about ways to promote and manage good health, the need for healthcare providers to help provide essential services increases. This need is one of the reasons registered nurses will be in-demand for the next decade and, most likely, for many years to come.

REASON #5: An Aging Population Requiring More Healthcare Services

Access to quality healthcare should be a priority for people across the lifespan. However, as we age, healthcare needs change and often become more complex, which means an aging population has greater needs for diverse healthcare services. RNs work in various roles providing education and services to patients, which is one of the many reasons there is a current and projected future demand for registered nurses.

REASON #6: Increased Awareness of Mental Health Challenges

I hate to admit it because it shows my age, but I can remember a time when there was such a stigma attached to anything dealing with mental illness. Because mental health disorders were either poorly or incorrectly diagnosed, many people went without proper care. Even worse, many people chose to suffer in silence because they feared how they would be treated for seeking help with mental health issues. Today, however, there is renewed and increased awareness of mental health challenges and the importance of providing mental health services, which is one of the reasons contributing to the demand for registered nurses, especially those specializing in mental health nursing.

REASON #7: The Need for Healthcare Services in Rural and Underserved Areas

Rural health nurses play an integral role in providing healthcare services for citizens in small, often underserviced communities nationwide. Because some of these areas are quite isolated, registered nurses may be the first or only point of contact for healthcare consumers in these rural areas. As the population, in general, continues to become educated about the importance of preventive health measures and also seeks care for acute or chronic health needs, the demand for registered nurses in these areas will continue to increase.

REASON #8: Bedside Burnout

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that there is such a demand for registered nurses is that RNs currently working in clinical roles are experiencing burnout at rates higher than ever before. Some sources attribute the increased level of burnout to the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic work conditions. Others cite poor work conditions overall and lack of administrative support as reasons for burnout. Whatever the reason, when nurses feel overworked, overwhelmed, and burned out, causing nurses to leave the profession, which means there is an increased need for nurses to fill vacant jobs.

REASON #9: Nurses Reaching Retirement Age

With more than 75 million baby boomers set to retire in the coming years, employers in all fields are left scrambling to find qualified workers to fill the vacancies their retirement brings. As nurses in this age group reach retirement age and leave the workforce, there is a dire need to find nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to take on their roles and provide high-quality patient care. Nurses reaching retirement age is another one of the main reasons behind the demand for registered nurses.

REASON #10: Greater Understanding of Safe Nurse-Patient Ratios

Maintaining appropriate nurse-patient ratios is essential in promoting better patient care. It is so important that Federal Regulation 42CFR 482.23(b) requires any hospitals certified to participate in Medicare to have “adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients, as needed.” As employers and healthcare providers realize how adequate staffing positively impacts patient care and outcomes, there is a greater push for qualified registered nurses to provide care, increasing the demand for registered nurses.

REASON #11: Nationwide Shortage of Nursing

Unfortunately, there is a nationwide shortage of nurses that seems to have no end in sight. In fact, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing published a research project that suggests that by 2027, nearly one-fifth of the 4.5 million registered nurses in the United States will leave the workforce. There are many reasons contributing to the nursing shortage, from nurses retiring, leaving the profession for a new career, or transitioning to nonclinical roles, which creates a need for nurses willing to work in a clinical setting. Regardless of the reason, the demand for registered nurses remains high with the current shortage and a projected continued shortage.

REASON #12: Advances in the Nursing Scope of Practice

As nursing education advances, many nurses see advances in their scope of practice, allowing greater autonomy. These changes give a nod to the contribution of nurses to the healthcare profession and our ability to provide specialized care to patients of all ages with various degrees of health. As advances in the nursing scope of practice occur, there is increased demand for registered nurses to take on the roles this increased autonomy brings.

REASON #13: Nursing Faculty Shortages

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, faculty shortages at nursing schools nationwide are currently causing schools to limit the number of admitted students to their programs. As a result, fewer new nurses are entering the workforce. Even if more nurses join the nurse educator workforce, it will take some time to train enough nurses to meet the demand for registered nurses we are now experiencing and will experience if the projected nursing exodus occurs within the next few years as expected.

REASON #14: Technological Advances Require Well-Trained and Qualified RNs

Something I love about nursing is that there is always something new to learn and experience. We live in a world where new technologies are introduced daily. As nurses, we must stay apprised of changes and prepare to implement them into our practice. New and constantly evolving technologies in nursing create a demand for registered nurses who are well-trained and willing to cultivate an attitude of lifelong learning to help promote positive patient and professional outcomes.

REASON #15: Life Expectancy is Increasing Among Diverse Populations

According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy for the average person is 77.3 years. Further, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that life expectancy will increase to a high of 85.6 years by 2060. This increased life expectancy can be attributed, in part, to further developments in medical technology and interventions. As people live longer, the need for healthcare services remains, which is one of the reasons registered nurses will be in demand in the next decade.

REASON #16: More Nurses Are Choosing to Specialize

Another top reason for the demand for registered nurses is that nurses can choose to focus on a specific patient population or to work with patients in a designated setting by choosing a nursing specialty. This is especially appealing for nurses who choose to pursue a master's or doctorate in nursing, as, with these degrees, you could become a nurse practitioner and work as an independent practitioner or in collaboration with a licensed physician. Both options make meeting the need for qualified registered nurses and primary care providers possible.

REASON #17: Patients Feel Nurses Are Trustworthy

I was talking with a nursing colleague earlier today, and the subject of nurse/patient relationships came up. I asked her thoughts on whether the relationships between nurses and patients drive the demand for nursing services. Her reply was an unequivocal "Yes!" I must say I agree with her, and so do many other sources. According to a national Gallup poll, approximately 82% of Americans rated nurses as having high ethical standards, honesty, and trustworthiness. Because nurses are often the first healthcare professionals to see patients and usually have the most contact with patients during their healthcare encounters, it is understandable to expect that their need for a provider who makes them feel safe and cared for helps drive the demand for registered nurses.

REASON #18: Increased Occurrence of Global Health Problems

Global health issues impact the need for nurses on small and large scales. For example, challenges such as natural disasters, pandemics, and infectious diseases require dedicated, well-qualified nurses to provide care to patients affected by these health issues and educate patients and the public on safe health practices and disease prevention measures. Global health concerns are one of many reasons registered nurses will be in demand for the next decade and after that.

REASON #19: Shortage of Primary Care Physicians

There is not only a nationwide shortage of nurses but also a shortage of primary care physicians, contributing to the demand for registered nurses in the U.S. Although RNs with undergraduate nursing degrees do not write prescriptions or act as primary care providers, they are the eyes and ears of physicians and play an integral role in improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. Registered nurses with a graduate degree can specialize as nurse practitioners and act as primary care providers, which can help alleviate some of the strain caused by the shortage of primary care physicians.

REASON #20: A Growing Population In Need of Healthcare

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population continues an upward trend in population growth. The 2023 Census revealed a 0.5% growth, which reflects more than 11 million new people added to the population since the 2022 Census. The greater the population, the greater the need for healthcare professionals to provide quality healthcare services. RNs are trained and qualified to deliver this type of care, which is one of the reasons registered nurses will be in demand for the next decade and years to come.

My Final Thoughts

If you are a registered nurse or considering becoming one, it is natural to wonder whether there is a need for the services you want to provide and if the outlook for your profession is good. You may wonder, “Why is there a demand for registered nurses?" or whether it is worth becoming an RN. In this article, I shared my thoughts about 20 main reasons behind the demand for registered nurses for the next 10 years. Many factors contribute to the demand for RNs, making nursing an excellent field with endless opportunities!

Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).