Nursing Shortage in the United States
When you need help, you want to know that it’s readily available, but with the current nursing shortage in the United States, this is becoming less and less of a certainty. Due to a number of reasons, there are far fewer nurses available for the large number of patients.
One of the main reasons that are cited for the nursing shortage is the aging of the baby boomers. Because over seventy million children were born in the years following the Second World War, these people are getting older and heading into their retirement years. This means that these people are going to need more health care as they age from qualified health professionals. And when you consider that many of these baby boomers were nurses themselves, you can see how the shortage multiplies.
Many of these baby boomers are retiring and are not full time nurses anymore, so the need for nurses is all the more apparent.
But a main problem in this nursing shortage is the overwhelming lack of knowledge in society. People generally don’t realize how nurses can help them until they are in an emergent position. Some patients believe that nurses are only able to take vital signs or administer shots, while there is much more to the story.
This ignorance has led to many hospitals and doctors hiring medical assistants and other less qualified medical professionals. While they can pay these employees far less than a registered nurse, there is an obvious difference in the skill sets. But money is becoming a priority for many over budget hospitals, and unfortunately, this is where many medical facilities choose to cut their costs.
This is not always the fault of the hospitals either. Many managed care organizations and health insurance companies do not want to pay the costs of having a nurse in a facility, so they are frowned upon in certain care settings. Because the insurance companies do not want to pay more than they have to for a medical appointment, encouraging lesser trained medical staff is becoming the norm.
Because of this, the hospitals are generally phasing out nurses, leading to overburdening the ones that do remain on staff. Their special skill sets and education make them invaluable in certain settings, but also overworked and under-supported. This cycle continues with these same nurses feeling strained and needing to quit in order to maintain some semblance of their sanity.
Women are also finding a greater range of careers available to them, unlike in the past. Many women are not choosing to become trained in nursing and thus are limited the possible nurses that are available. They might feel that nursing is something that makes them a part of a nurturing stereotype and limits the career benefits that they could have in other jobs. Women are seeing that nurses aren’t paid well for the work that they do, so they don’t bother to go into the field.
And many are hearing the horror stories associated with dealing with overburdened doctors, residents, and surgeons. Because healthcare as a rule is being stretched to its limits, it’s no wonder that many are avoiding the career path altogether.
Another factor to consider in the question of the nursing shortage is the overall training of these younger nurses that are entering the field. In many cases, these nurses are not being trained as well as those that came before them, and thus are not always the best choice for care settings. While a hospital may have the correct number of nurses in their roster, these nurses may not be able to provide the care that is expected of them.
To combat the nursing shortage, many companies and hospitals are offering incentives to those that are willing to go through the training and sign a contract to work for a certain facility. It’s not uncommon to see offers of sign on bonuses in the local classified ads and job listings. But this may also be contributing to the problem.
When the market is as competitive as it is, and the demand for nurses is so high, nurses will look for the best places to work, and that may not be in positions that are crucial to patient care. Some nurses are especially drawn to less stressful environments that allow them to make decent salaries without having to feel overworked. This is good for the nurses, but places like oncology and emergent care suffer from not being able to compete with these easier offers.
Educational institutions are trying to make it easier on all prospective students by creating programs that can work around an existing job schedule as well as give the proper training to earn more money right from the start of a nursing career. By allowing the student to earn his/her registered nursing degree or his/her master’s degree, the student will have an advantage over the other nurses that are graduating.
The population in the United States is getting older and will need more of the specialized care that a nurse can provide, but will it be there? That is a question that nursing schools and recruitment companies are asking. And only time will tell if the health care system will realize in time how important these caregivers really are.