Registered nurses are the glue that keeps medical facilities together. Serving as patient advocates and skilled care providers, nurses provide a high level of direct care to patients. However, sustaining the United States healthcare workforce is a daunting task. Concerns surrounding a potential nursing shortage have loomed for years, and the situation has only worsened. Commentary in Fortune recently explored our aging population and what it means for healthcare in the U.S.:

“Our population is aging faster than at any other time in history. As longevity rises and birth rates fall, the WHO warns that retirement-age and older adults today outnumber children under the age of five. In the next 20 years, the number of human beings aged 65+ is set to increase by 600 million reaching 1.3 billion, or 22% of the global population. According to demographers from the University of Virginia, by 2040, the average age in America will be 38.6, meaning that almost half of the country will be in their 40s or older… An aging population is a smoldering crisis for our systems and structures: government and healthcare providers, businesses, educational institutions, and taxpayers.”

Our rapidly aging population will place greater strain on the American healthcare system, which makes the nursing shortage even more concerning. Elderly patients often deal with chronic diseases in addition to cognitive decline, which requires more of a nurse’s time and energy. To address the changing patient demography, more registered nurses will need to enter the workforce.