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Highlights

The nation's hospitals and nursing homes rely heavily on the services of nurses. Concerns have been raised about whether the current and projected supply of nurses will meet the nation's needs. This report reviews (1) whether evidence of a nursing shortage exists, (2) the reasons for current nurse recruitment and retention problems, and (3) what is known about the projected future supply of and demand for nurses. GAO found that national data are not adequate to describe the nature and extent of nurse workforce shortages, nor are data sufficiently sensitive or current to compare nurse workforce availability across states, specialties, or provider types. Multiple factors affect recruitment and retention problems, including the aging of the nurse workforce fewer younger people are entering the profession. A serious shortage of nurses is expected in the future as demographic pressures influence both demand and supply.

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