It would be easy to try to place the blame of the national nursing shortage on just one key factor, but in actuality, the current situation healthcare is facing is a multidimensional issue that is not just a lack of supply, but also demand.
It isn’t just that there is an overall shortage of nurses, but there is also a severe lack of nurses that are experienced in skilled areas such as intensive care. Not only do we need an increase in RNs, but we also need an increase in nurses who have experience under their belts. So why exactly is there such a shortage?
- Beginning with the decreased number of students going into baccalaureate level RN programs seems like the most organic beginning of this situation. Both associate and baccalaureate level nursing programs across the country do not have extra classroom space, additional faculty members, and other resources to carry on the task of enrolling more students. In 2016 alone, U.S. nursing schools reported turning away over 64,000 qualified applicants due to lack of resources and faculty.
- The projected need for experienced nurses is especially daunting when you study the number of baby boomers who will soon need medical care. With the baby boomer generation exiting the workforce and being in more need of medical care, the numbers just do not lie. We do not have the number of RNs needed to provide quality geriatric care to this generation. By 2050, the number of living adults over the age of 65 will more than double what it was in 2012. With life expectancy at an all time high due to medical advancements, we have to come up with solutions to provide quality care for the geriatric population.
- Studies show that understaffed conditions are leading to higher work stress. Without an adequate number of registered nurses on the work floor, more pressure is being placed on the experienced nurses who are there working. Nurses are reporting an increased desire to leave the profession because of the toll that this higher stress is putting on patient care. So, not only are there not enough nurses entering the profession but simultaneously more nurses are leaving the work force due to either retirement or less stressful work conditions elsewhere.
By just examining these three facets of the nursing shortage dilemma, you can see that the solution to this crisis will have to be multidimensional, funding-driven, and focused on supporting current RNs.
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