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Nursing Deficit Shrinks, With Economy's Help

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The shrinking economy is helping to restore a withering nursing pool in the United States, easing a decade-long shortage of hospital nurses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, based on a new study's findings.

The number of nurses entering the workforce shot up by 243,000 (18 percent) in 2007-2008, the largest two-year rise in 30 years, the newspaper said. Many nurses who had left the profession -- about half of them older than age 50 -- returned for reasons including making up for a partner's lost income or acquiring health benefits, according to the study published Friday in the journal Health Affairs.

The shortage began in about 1998 and topped out in 2001, when some 13 percent of the average hospital's nursing needs were unmet, the Journal said.

In addition to the souring economy, other factors helping to restore the nursing pool included expanding nursing schools, efforts to attract young candidates and a jump in foreign-born nurses, the newspaper reported.

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