Results from studies of supply and demand for registered nurses in Vermont in 2007 show several areas of significant improvement in longstanding nursing workforce shortages. But the stats released shouldnt be taken as an indicator that there are not challenges ahead, said Mary Val Palumbo, director of the Office of Nursing Workforce at the University of Vermont. Results of 2007 nursing surveys conducted by the Office of Nursing Workforce, Research, Planning and Development show: A decline in vacancy rates for registered nurses in hospitals (12 percent to 6 percent), home health agencies (12 percent to 8 percent) and nursing homes (19 percent to 9 percent) from 2003 to 2007 as measured by the Health Workforce Assessment Survey. An increase in nursing graduates, from 128 in 2001 to 259 in 2006 (100% increase). Fewer nurses reported that they were likely to leave their positions due to retirement, despite an increase in nurses age 55-plus (34% of those likely to leave their position in 2003 compared with 18% in 2007). These figures come from an biennial voluntary survey mailed along with relicensure materials to 13,321 registered nurses in Vermont; and from the Vermont Health Workforce Assessment Survey, which was sent to top administrators in home health care agencies, long-term care facilities, hospitals and outpatient provider offices. Even in light of positive news of the nursing workforce, demographic trends are expected to exacerbate shortages in the near future. The mean age of registered nurses is 49, and 80 percent of RNs in Vermont are older than 40. At the same time these nurses will be retiring, the aging of the general Vermont population will create a stronger demand for nursing services. Current shortages are unevenly distributed, with certain specialties including operating room and psychiatric RNs experiencing workforce shortages that are higher than the mean. Further, fewer than 5 percent of RNs in Vermont have graduate degrees, which reduces the pool for filling nurse educator positions, and limits the ability for state programs to graduate enough nurses, particularly those with college degrees. Even though weve made significant strides forward in the past couple of years, there is still much work to be done to attract enough qualified nurses to Vermont, Palumbo said. If we dont continue to actively recruit and educate new nurses, and find ways to accommodate the changing needs of older nurses to keep them in the profession, Vermont will be facing a significant deficit in the nursing workforce in the years to come. In 2001, the Vermont Blue Ribbon Commission on Nursing identified the state nursing shortage and released a set of recommendations to alleviate it. Since that time, the state of Vermont, often in public/private partnerships, has focused on filling the holes, either current or expected, in health care employment shortfalls.