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July 6, 2014

Number of nurses at all-time high in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY —

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The number of licensed nurses in Oklahoma stands at nearly 75,000, an all-time high in the state.

The Oklahoman reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1gTb8Gk ) that a recent open records request to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing found there are 74,656 licensed nurses in the state, an increase of more than 22,000 during the past decade.

Nursing board executive director Kim Glazier said she traces the increase to a panic of sorts that began in 2004 or 2005 when reports began that there was a looming nursing shortage to take care of the aging baby boom generation, generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964.

Efforts were made then to attract more people to nursing.

"There was a lot of literature out there about the shortage of nurses at the time," Glazier said. "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."

Glazier said there was another increase in the number of nurses in late 2008, when the worldwide economy contracted, sending the United States and the rest of the world into 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, 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," she said.

But she said she believes the nursing ranks will likely remain high for the foreseeable future because of retention programs, as well as all the work that was done to draw attention to the shortage back in 2004 or 2005.

"A lot of work was done by a lot of entities to increase enrollment and increase people coming into nursing," Glazier said.

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