Summer has passed—traditionally the time when the eager faces of new nursing graduates appear in hospitals to begin orientation classes for the graduates’ first nursing positions. However, fewer new graduates filled those orientation classes this year. The 2000 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses,11 a comprehensive statistical portrait of the population of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, found that too few young persons are pursuing nursing careers, as indicated by a 17% decrease in enrollments in nursing degree programs during the preceding 5 years. Furthermore, Staiger et al22 characterized the declining interest in nursing as “driven by fundamental, permanent shifts in the labor market that are unlikely to reverse,” indicating that nursing may never again achieve the high level of interest it once received as a career choice.

To make matters worse, the...

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