An acute shortage of nurses in hospitals and nursing homes has added billions of dollars to the nation's escalating expenditures for health care.
Of the nation's 1.9 million registered nurses, the most ever, at least 1.5 million are currently working in the profession. But hospitals and nursing homes still need at least 150,000 more nurses.
Hospitals will spend $3.1 billion this year to recruit and train nurses, said Carolyne K. Davis, head of a federal commission that is studying the situation for the secretary of health and human services, Dr. Otis R. Bowen.
In Boston, where the shortage is especially acute, employment agencies are asking …