UAA School of Nursing students suit up for operating room (OR) orientation. Courtesy of UAA School of Nursing.
In the United States, health care is one of the fastest growing job sectors in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, in 2014, 11.8 million workers were employed in the health care industry, with 2.7 million of that workforce represented by registered nurses. With the average age of nurses being 50 or older, and 30 percent of that workforce preparing to retire, public and private health care organizations across the country, including in Alaska, are bracing for a nationwide nursing shortage.
It’s not the first time this has happened. The health care industry experienced a similar nationwide nursing shortage in the 1970s and ’80s as more women entered the workforce with alternative career options than the traditional nurse, school teacher or secretary that their mothers or grandmothers had.
Alaska has not been immune to these national trends and experienced similar shortages during the ’70s and ’80s along with the rest of the country. Briefly during the ’90s and early 2000s the health care industry in Alaska recovered. But with an aging nursing population heading into retirement over the next decade, Alaska’s health care industry is turning to Alaska’s university to lead the charge in educating the next generation of nurses.
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