What is Being Done About the Nursing Shortage in the US?

The role of a nurse, at any level, is so tremendously important. Nurses care for patients in every way possible, they help inform and educate them about their conditions and treatments, they help them make life changing decisions, they administer medication and change IVs, they communicate between patients, families, doctors and administrative staff, they offer support and advice to families, and so much more. The role of a nurse cannot be overstated.

The Shortage

There has been a shortage of nurses for decades. This isn’t because less people have been training to become nurses, in fact more people than ever are, it’s the fastest growing occupation in the country. It’s because the demand for them is growing faster than the supply can. With life expectancy increasing year on year, we have an ever aging population, this means more chronic illness, and more need for care. This problem is growing exponentially, by 2050 it is estimated that over 88 million people will be aged 65 and over. Our hospitals and nursing staff are not ready to deal with this.

Education

Many older nurses are being encouraged to take on teaching roles, and delay their retirement. In the past, eligible nursing candidates have been rejected because of a lack of teaching staff, more teachers would enable there to be more trained nurses.

More courses are also being offered. Nany universities now offer online courses in nursing, as well as doctorates in nursing practice, this gives many more people access to the education they need to become a nurse. Bradley University is one of those that offers some fantastic online healthcare courses.

Financial Benefits

Hospitals have started offering nurses financial incentives to work longer hours, or more hours. While is a great short term solution, ultimately it may lead to over worked nursing staff, which could be dangerous, as well as causing them to take time off sick, exasperating the problem. Other financial benefits include government grants for those studying nursing, or continuing to study it to a higher level.

Retention of Older Nurses

Nursing was a very popular occupation in the 1970’s and earlier, when there were less options available to women. A lot of these nurses are now at retirement age. Hospitals are working to improve working conditions for them, shorten their hours, and offer them whatever support they need to carry on working. While this is not a long term solution, it eases the pressure until the record numbers of nurses in training are fully qualified.

Awareness

Making the general public more aware of the nursing shortage, encourages them to do something about it. People considering taking on a career in nursing are more likely to do so when they know what a big impact they could make. Raising awareness of what exactly a nurse does is also increasing people’s desire to take up the role. Gone are the days when the view was that nurses just helped doctors. It is now a very well respected position.

A shortage of nurses is a very real, and very serious problem, which will ultimately lead to growing loss of life, while these steps are being taken. More needs to be done. More people need to be encouraged to take up the role of nursing, and supported to stick with it once they do.

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