Introduction to nursing shortage essay
As the need for health in the US grows and the Baby Boomers age, the US is anticipated to have a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs). Nursing schools are struggling to expand and accommodate the rising demand for healthcare services in the nation. The vacancy available in the nursing schools countrywide does not match the nation’s demand for care.
The shortage of nurses is a menace that deserves immediate attention. As a result, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in conjunction with policymakers, schools, nursing organizations, and the media, are working to spread more awareness about this healthcare concern. AACN has channeled its resources to shape legislation, identify strategies, and form collaborations to address the nursing shortage.
Signs of the projected nursing shortage
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections 2019-2029, Registered Nursing (RN) is one of the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2029.
As of 2019, the RN workforce was 3.3 million, which is expected to increase by 7 % (221,900) by 2029. The Labor Bureau anticipates that each year through 2029, there will be 175,900 openings for RNs. This shows a significant imbalance between the demand for RNs and their supply.
It is evident that the number of employment opportunities for nurses will continue to open up, but individuals looking for jobs in the nursing profession will not increase.
As nurses continue to retire at an early age and the older citizens demand more healthcare services, the demand for nurses will only intensify. The rate at which nurses are retiring is putting immense stress on healthcare workers because the retirees leave without a substitute. The longer it takes to address the nursing shortage, the more healthcare organizations will continue to struggle.
Causes/Triggers of the current nursing shortage
The cause of the current shortage can be categorized into the following:
- An Aging Workforce – The nursing staff is aging and going to retirement. Roughly about one-third of the current nursing workforce is 50 years or older.
- An Aging Population– The baby boomers are aging, which means they will demand more healthcare. Between 2010 and 2030, one in every five people will be senior citizens.
- A Limited Supply of New Nurses– The number of students graduating from nursing schools is insufficient to cover the deficit created by those who will soon retire.
Impact of nursing shortage
- Increased Patient Mortality
The nursing shortage results in a lack of healthcare professionals, which attributes to patient mortality. Studies have shown a close link between short-staffed facilities and higher death rates. When a short-staffed facility receives multiple emergency cases simultaneously, the patients will suffer, and in the process, the chances of them dying is high. In such a facility, patients will be neglected because the few available nurses are overworked.
- Overcrowding and congestion in healthcare centers
The nursing shortage is one of the main reasons behind the problem of overcrowding of emergency rooms. Many emergency departments have reported the problem of overcrowding, which can lead to an increase in the duration of hospitalization, the performance of additional procedures, permanent disability, or even death.
Overcrowding also poses a threat to the wellbeing of practitioners because they are in too much contact with patients.
Congestion in healthcare facilities also increases the risk of physicians making errors. Physicians often overwork hurriedly to reduce the crowd, which increases the likelihood of making errors.
- Nurse Burnout Rises
The shortage of nurses contributes to nursing burnout amongst the practicing nurses and healthcare professionals. As nurses retire, they leave their positions vacant, and the remaining nurses are left to pick up the work.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals experienced an increased flow of patients, and many nurses had to work overtime.
The increase in workload for the nurse can be overwhelming and cause stress and depression.
- Increase in medication errors
The deficit of nurses means the current workforce will have more, which increases medication errors. Errors may range from infusing drugs at the wrong rate to giving the wrong medicine or mixing up medicines between patients, which can easily result in fatal consequences.
Nursing Shortage Solutions
- Deploying Technology
Assisting the current healthcare staff by making their duties more efficient can fill in the gaps caused by the nursing shortage. Technology can help make nursing tasks less tedious. For instance, mobile apps can help with scheduling and credentialing to reduce the need for nurses working overtime.
- Hiring International Nurses
Some hospitals have tried hiring foreign nurses, and this strategy has been successful. The hiring of international nurses is not new in the US, as the method has been used to address past shortages. Most of the international nurses have five to ten years of experience, and they help bridge the gap of expertise between new graduates and nurses who plan on retiring soon.
- Paying higher wages
Devoting resources to unceasing nurses’ wages makes the profession more lucrative.
This tactic affects the recruitment and retention of nurses already in the workforce.