Nursing Shortage: An Issue of Scarce Resource
The present nursing shortage is a serious issue which poses a real threat to the future of the healthcare system especially on patients. Research published last year by ANA predicts that the US will have a shortage of 1 million nurses by 2020 (http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce /reports/behindrnprojections/4.htm), a bottleneck at US nursing schools caused more than 42 000 qualified applicants to be turned away in 2006-2007 (p.1623).
Nursing experts attributed this shortage to five influencing factors. First, it is mainly due to the simultaneous graying of the nurse workforce or the age or retirement of older nurses. Second, many are leaving the profession due to overworked and some even migrated to other countries in search for high paying ones. Third, the number (especially the younger generations) entering the nursing profession continues to decline as they see the lack of stability and thus tend to choose other careers (American Nurses Association, 2003).
Fourth, US nursing schools face a growing faculty shortage, schools lack the physical facilities, too few clinical training placements, and limited fund; all of these have not been able to keep pace with the demand. Fifth, while it is easy to blame the government for this shortage due to lack of funding for nursing programs, however, equally important is career burn out. It can’t be denied that nursing is one among the many jobs that has a stressful work environment. So, the job itself is responsible for this shortage.
Further, CareerJournal.com has surveyed several students who mentioned that the best careers do not include nursing. Some of the respondents mentioned that the lack of funding and facilities to train new nurses, poor working conditions in hospitals and poor salary scale make the nursing profession not a compensatory career.
What makes this issue even worse is that research studies have found the shortage is already having a proven, adverse effect on the ability to deliver quality healthcare in the US. One important negative effect on patient healthcare is the increased risk of patient deaths as simply there are not enough nurses to safely care for patients. Another is the increased medical errors arising from many complications because of this shortage. All of this equates to the inadequacy to meet the future health care needs of Americans.
Because of all these, patient’s safety is threatened and health care quality is deteriorating. This is because nurses are greatly responsible for the majority of patient care, as they perform the vital functions in a patient’s confinement in the hospital and thus providing more face to face services than doctors. But we need to ensure that there are enough registered nurses to meet future demands. What makes this issue even worse is that research studies have found the shortage is already having a proven, adverse effect on the ability to deliver quality healthcare in the US.
One important negative effect on patient healthcare is the increased risk of patient deaths as simply there are not enough nurses to safely care for patients. Another is the increased medical errors arising from many complications because of this shortage. All of this equates to the inadequacy to meet the future health care needs of Americans.
To address this shortage, solutions must be developed in several areas, such as in education, healthcare deliver systems, policy and regulations, and image. This shortage is not solely nursings` issue and requires a collaborative effort among nursing leaders in practice and education, health care executives, government, and the media. Thus, the American government, nursing agencies, and other concerned groups have taken some steps to alleviate the nursing shortage such as to increase the number of admissions to the
American nursing education and improving working environment to retain nurses. On the other hand, they are pushing for budget changes which they hope to address the lack of funding issue of the nursing program. Research has shown that quality of workplace environment and job satisfaction is correlated, which impacts on quality of care and patient outcomes. ANA (2003) urge governments to act swiftly to develop a national health human resource strategy.
But there are many barriers to the resolutions as addressing the shortage is really a difficult task. For one, the government itself lack a substantive commitment to the health of Americans and that these barriers has increased due to the different views between policy making and health human resource planning. But if this issue has to be resolved, all concerned groups; nurses, hospitals, clinics, and the government should work hand in hand. Many concerned groups believed that an integrated health human resource strategy that includes the expeditious licensure and acceptance of those who wish to immigrate or who already reside in the different states of the US is needed to resolve the nursing shortage.
Nurses are vital in the health care system, thus the government, nursing associations, employers, educators, and others have collaborated to address the nursing shortage issue. Nursing has been burdened with societal expectations of selflessness and devotion. Thus, a high ethical and legal standard should be met by all American nurses.
The nursing shortage carries with it a lot of implications. Foremost, this has affected the quality and safety of the entire American health care system as nothing is more critical to the health and well being of Americans than safe, sound, and available health care. Thus, the governments, professional associations, educators, administrators and employers have accelerated their efforts to reduce the potential threat of this shortage and thus minimize the potential public risk. Hence, nursing education would flourish and nursing graduates would increase in number. With this, nursing graduates will have a positive job outlook as their demand is high. With these efforts, the nursing shortage would come to an end and nurses could provide the Americans with a safe and high quality health care.
American Medical Association (2007). No End in Sight to Nursing Shortage: Bottleneck at
Nursing Schools a Key Factor. Vol 298, No. 14. Available:
American Nurses Association. (2003). Planning for the Future: Nursing Human Resource
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Nevidjon, B., Erickson, J. (January 31, 2001) The Nursing Shortage: Solutions for the Short
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