Health care providers in rural Missouri are struggling more than their metropolitan counterparts when it comes to the nationwide nursing shortage.

According to a study by MU, rural Missouri counties experience nursing shortages at a greater rate than the state’s urban counties. Ninety-seven of the 114 Missouri counties are experiencing nursing shortages, and most of those counties are rural.

In addition, the study found rural Missouri counties have a higher percentage of nurses nearing retirement, which could have a severe impact on the future of the state’s nursing workforce. Between 42% to 58% of nurses are older than 54 and nearing retirement, according to the study published in the April edition of the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

In an MU newsrelease Tuesday, researcher Anne Heyen said it is important to be proactive now and begin considering who will fill those nursing positions in the coming years. 

“Research has shown nurses tend to stay and work where they are educated, which can influence young nurses to stay in urban areas where there tend to be more educational resources,” Heyen said. 

The study also found there are more job opportunities and higher pay for nurses in major cities.

“The overall goal of this research is to make sure everyone in Missouri ultimately has access to the health care they need, regardless of where they live, and identifying where the nursing shortages occur is a key first step," Heyen said.

According to Tuesday's release, MU hopes that the completion of the new nursing school building will help them get more nurses out into the Missouri workforce.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at

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