Over the past ten years, there was a 62 percent increase in the number of young registered nurses according to the journal Health Affairs.

“The average age of a nurse in New Jersey is just under 50 and as we see those professionals retire in the next few years, we want to see qualified registered nurses step in,” said Pat Barnett, CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association. “There have been significant changes in the nursing field with many more opportunities which is one of the reasons I believe we’ve seen this increase.”

But Barnett fears the economy may chase many young nurses away, “Even though we’ve raised the number of graduates, we may lose them in the future if they have difficulty finding a job,” said Barnett. “This is a temporary glitch because of the downturn in the economy. We also have an aging population which is going to need geriatric care, so demand will go back up. I just hope the nurses who are having a tough time finding work now will stick around long enough for when that happens.”

“It’s also been proven that nursing is one of the least mobile professions,” said Barnett. “For some reason, most nurses live within 40 miles of where they went to high school. So, we need to come up with ways to distribute nurses adequately across the nation.”

The nursing industry is changing. “Right now, 60 percent of nurses work inside hospitals. As the population ages, more and more medical professionals are going to be needed out in the community, making home visits and taking care of those who have difficulty leaving their homes. This is another area that will be booming in a few years and nurses once again will be in demand.”