There are more licensed nurses in Oklahoma right now than there has been at any point in the state’s history.
A recent open records request made by The Oklahoman to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing reveals there are 74,656 licensees in the state, an increase of more than 22,000 in the past decade.
Kim Glazier, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Nursing, said she traces the rise in the nurse population back to a panic, of sorts, that started “around 2004 or 2005.”
“There was a lot of literature out there about the shortage of nurses at the time,” Glazier said during a recent interview with The Oklahoman.
“Now, I’ve been a nurse long enough to know that a lot of the shortages are cyclic. But this time, when they looked at it, it was going to be at a critical level.”
Shortage prompts growth
Glazier said the shortage identified a decade ago grew to a mini panic because of the large number of Baby Boomers who might have been affected had such a shortage persisted.”
“There was not going to be enough health care professionals to care for these Baby Boomers,” Glazier said. “The highest area where there was going to be a shortage was nursing.”
But it wasn’t simply the Baby Boomers who caused the huge increase in nurses over the past decade. The other big jump came in late 2008, when the worldwide economy contracted, sending the United States and the rest of the world into a deep recession.
“When the economy turns down, a lot of nurses who had stayed home for whatever reason usually enter back into the profession during that period of time,” Glazier said.
“This number (74,656 registered nurses), I anticipate, will start to go down now that the economy has leveled off, because of those individuals who entered back into the profession when things were down will probably leave.”
Regardless, Glazier said the nursing ranks will likely remain high for the foreseeable future. She said retention programs, as well as all the work that was done to draw attention to the shortage back in 2004 and 2005, should keep those numbers high.
“A lot of work was done by a lot of entities to increase enrollment and increase people coming into nursing,” Glazier said.
“So, I don’t think that (the number of nurses) will ever go back down ... because of all of the recruitment ... because of all the work that has been done.”
When the economy turns down, a lot of nurses who had stayed home for whatever reason usually enter back into the profession during that period of time. This number (74,656 registered nurses), I anticipate, will start to go down now that the economy has leveled off.”
Executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Nursing