RI Health Care Sector Expected To Grow 16%; More RNs Needed

Jun 2, 2014

Rhode Island will face a shortage of nurses in the next 10 to 15 years. But the state may need even more lower level health care workers.

The state expects to see a shortage of nurses in the coming years.
Credit Aaron Read

A health care workforce development group says Rhode Island could likely be short about 350 nurses within the next decade. That group, Stepping Up Rhode Island, just put out a report assessing the health care industry’s needs over the coming 10 to 20 years. But spokesman Barry Nickerson says there’s a more immediate need for certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, and medical assistants, or MAs.

“We are at the brink of that transition as the Affordable Care Act unrolls, in which we’ll see more health care being sought out at community sites because of the access to health insurance," said Nickerson. "This is going to require more of those CNA and MA positions so we have our eyes on preparing them for care in the community.”

But while Nickerson says job-hunting CNAs and MAs have strong technical skills, Rhode Island employers say many lack the so-called soft skills like communication and team work they need to get hired.

The report also found that growth in Rhode Island’s health care industry outpaced all other sectors over the past 10 years. And it’s expected to grow another 16 percent in the next decade. Stepping Up Rhode Island spokesman Barry Nickerson says we might not have enough applicants to fill key jobs.

“We do expect in the next decade and a half or so for there to be a nursing shortage of over 350 RNs in Rhode Island," Nickerson said. "While that sounds like a small number, what that implies is that for every one of those nurses, that’s a 40 hour per week position. That’s over 700,000 hours of missing clinical time with a nurse.”