Is There a Nursing Shortage? Part 2

Mathew Keller, RN, JD

By Mathew Keller, RN, JD

MNA Nursing Policy and Practice Specialist

As this blog detailed last year, fears of a nursing shortage in Minnesota are somewhat unfounded. In fact, at the time, Minnesota was licensing more than three Registered Nurses for every new job opening in the state.

We’ve crunched the numbers once again this year, and it turns out the trend of licensing more RNs than there are jobs for continues. Add to this the fact that the number of job openings for RNs in the state actually decreased last year, and you have a recipe for plenty of competition over every available RN job.

Here’s what we found:

  • Minnesota licensed 7,127 RNs to practice nursing in fiscal year 2015;
  • Minnesota colleges graduated 3154 RNs in 2014, the last year for which data is available;
  • Healthcare providers in the state added 618 new RN jobs in 2015.  Source here;
  • On top of new jobs, 936 RNs retired in 2015, creating a total of 1,554 new RN job openings in the state.

As the data shows, there are 4.5 newly licensed RNs in the state for every job opening. Even if we calculated only RN graduates from Minnesota nursing schools rather than all new RN licensees, there are still almost 2 RNs for every new job opening.[1]

So why do we continue to hear of a nursing shortage at every turn? There are several factors to any alleged nursing shortage in Minnesota as well. Filling open positions in rural areas, for example, may be more difficult than filling open positions in the metro area. Hospital hiring practices can also negatively affect their hiring pool. For example, 57 percent of current RN job vacancies are part time, 68 percent require more than one year of experience, and many facilities hire on the basis of academic degree, eliminating roughly half of the potential job applicants who have two-year degrees.

If you want the biggest factor in hospital claims of a nursing shortage, follow the money. When corporate healthcare convinces nurses and their patients that there is a nursing shortage, they can get away with not filling open jobs and staffing up. The fewer RNs they have to pay, the more profits hospitals can reap—or so they think. Studies show that the less nursing care patients receive, the worse their outcomes are, and the research also shows that poor RN staffing actually ends up costing healthcare facilities more in the long run. Hospitals are penalized for readmissions, preventable adverse events, higher mortality, and unjustified increases in length of stay. Patients pay the same amount whether they received adequate RN care or not. Unfortunately, it’s the patients who suffer.

So, nurses, the next time your employer tells you that they haven’t filled an open position due to the nursing shortage, call them on it! Even the Minnesota Hospital Association has projected a surplus of Minnesota RNs over the next 10 years. We need to advocate for our patients by keeping hospitals accountable for their poor staffing across the state and not accept excuses driven by the corporate profit motive.



  1. So when hospitals say they only want BSN’s they are discriminating against nurses who can’t afford a BSN initially r/t cost or family need. It is their way of keeping us working short because the lack of qualified BSN’s. Whatever- Dogs.

    I have said, why don’t hospitals want to support professional nursing. Take that AS degree nurse and say, welcome; work for us and we will assist you to get that BSN in 5 yrs. There is very little monetary benefit to having a BSN. But, there would not be a shortage of nurses and there would be highly motivated and proud nurses working for an organization that really cares about nursing and patient care!

  2. I worked for 4+yrs in the SF VA, I was chemo certified, got great annual reviews. In 3 yrs I have had one hospital interview. The problem is the automated hiring process. It takes hours for each company. I graduated with a BSN from the California University system, yet sometimes I am rejected for that, phone calls don’t help. I am told to as apply again. My guess is that there are great nurses ready to work, but the hospital’s system is blind, in this aspect and others. Maybe its, size, egos,fear, I don’t know I am outside. If the people on the inside know then it should improve, right?

  3. I submitted the 2 MNA resolutions at my caucus. In discussing both, the issue raised was “we really have a shortage of RN’s in the state”. To which I quoted your statistics in these two ‘RN shortage’ articles. I was glad to have the accurate data to share. It really helped me convince them to support the resolution, yet I had to admit it is harder for us in rural and disadvantaged areas to get enough RN’s hired to give total care. Thanks for the data. Hope these 2 resolutions make it to the state convention to be voted on, where I hope I have MNA friends attending that will make the case with me for their passage and then urge them into the Action Agenda which is where DFL lobbys for them. GO MNA GO!!!!

  4. That’s awesome, Lil! Glad I could be of assistance.

  5. Does your data include job openings for RNs in home care, home health, community based service, public health, clinics, MD offices, and private industry?

Comments are closed.