Denver is hosting one of the country's biggest nursing conferences. One issue on the agenda is the ongoing, nationwide nursing shortage.
The American Nurses Association estimates by 2022 more than a million new registered nurses will be needed to meet the country's health care needs.
Colleen Casper, a registered nurse and executive director of the Colorado Nurses Association, said the nursing shortage has hit rural areas in the Mountain West especially hard.
"Access becomes an issue for folks that live in the rural corners of the world," she said.
The number of nurses is also not keeping up with an aging population. Utah, Idaho and Colorado are three of the 10 most rapidly aging states, according to the U.S. News and World Report .
"I think people need to understand how critical nursing is in the whole health care delivery system and care for older adults," said Rob Ence, executive director for the Utah Commission on Aging.
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that one in five Americas will be at retirement age or older by 2030.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.