Increase in aging population contributes to Texas nursing shortage

POSTED: 5:17 PM Mar 22 2013   UPDATED: 8:22 PM Mar 22 2013
ABILENE, Texas -

Medical facilities across the country are experiencing nursing shortages, and the problem is especially relevant in the state of Texas.

With the constantly increasing population in the state, there is more of a need than ever to fill healthcare positions.

In the next decade, seniors are expected to make up nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population, and Texas is the second most populated state in the country.

Stella Rideout is in her late 80's. When she fell recently, she needed the help of nurses when she checked into Mesa Springs Healthcare in Abilene.

"I've thought about how can you thank them? It's impossible. You can give them a gift but that's not thanking them properly," said Rideout.

Stella Rideout is one of thousands that make up the aging population here in Texas, and many will need that help in the coming years.

"Nurses help by bringing things to you, cheering you up, talking with you. All those things that help you get well," said Rideout.

According to the Texas Nurses Association, the state will be 70,000 nurses short by the year 2020.

"The population here in Texas is growing in that aging field so we definitely are going to need nurses to take care of the elderly," said Pearl Merritt, Regional Dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences School of Nursing in Abilene.

Emily Bradshaw is a second year nursing student, and she fears they won't get the attention they need.

"It's hard to see there's such a shortage. Patients need time but to have more time we need more nurses," said Bradshaw.    


Many middle-aged nurses will be retiring in the coming years, so recruiting now is crucial.

But the problem goes even deeper. As students apply, nursing programs can't necessarily handle the volume.

"A lot of places can't hire faculty because of the salary. It's not nearly as much as the hospital," said Merritt.

The Center for Nursing Workforce Studies Advisory Committee is working towards solutions by studying demand and seeking more money for training.

"I think it is up to us to make sure that we are training nurses and providing that education in an environment to get ready for the aging explosion that we're going to have," said Merritt.

The rise in uninsured and under-insured citizens needing healthcare is also contributing to the need for more nurses.