TEXAS — Nurses across the country continue to care for patients with COVID-19. While they’ve been recognized as heroes, it’s also brought attention to the need for more nurses. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services released projections, showing significant shortages in most nursing fields by 2032.

According to the report, the shortage of registered nurses will grow to more than 57,000, meaning 16% of the need will not be met. The largest shortages are expected to be at hospitals. 

Associate Dean Estrella Barrera of Health Sciences at Austin Community College says the problem isn’t a lack of demand.

The nursing program gets the most applications compared to other positions in the medical field. 

“We have our limitations as to how many students we can bring on right, because of the space and just managing the clinical part of this,” Barerra said. “It's one thing to bring a student on campus for their didactic or their classwork, but we also have to have clinical sites to place our students and sometimes that is our biggest challenge.”

The college works with local hospitals and community partners through its clinical affiliations, so students can get hands-on experience and training. 

“We can't send a student to Waco or a student to Dallas or any other part of the country to do their clinicals, '' Barerra said. “We're a little bit limited to where our students can go to get their clinical hours. That is just one of the challenges that we have to manage.”

As the population continues to grow older, and more people move to Austin, Barrera says there will be a need for nurses in the health care system. 

“I think it's multifactorial,” Barerra said. “I mean the population here in Austin is growing. If we talk about just our region, more people are moving to Austin, hence, you're going to have more demands on the health care system.”