According to a report published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, young registered nurses are now entering the workforce at a rate not seen since the 1970s.
After peaking at 190,000 in 1979, the number of RNs between the ages of 23 and 26 plummeted below 110,000 in the early '90s. That's a drop of about 50 percent, bottoming out at 102,000 in 2002.
Then, unexpectedly, everything changed. Between 2002 and 2009, the number of mid-20-something RNs jumped by 62 percent. According to the report, "If these young nurses follow the same life-cycle employment patterns as those who preceded them -- as they appear to be thus far -- then they will be the largest cohort of registered nurses ever observed."
But if your local hospital already has a shortage of nurses, it might be a little early to celebrate the trend. A second Health Affairs study published Monday found that nurses rarely move very far for a job. In fact, 52.5 percent of nurses work within 40 miles of where they attended high school.
Next to teaching, the report shows, nursing is one of the least-mobile professions for women. Without intervention, areas currently struggling to produce RNs probably won't be seeing an upswing in their numbers any time soon.