Compelling evidence suggests that regions of the United States face a nursing and physician shortage that our legislators, health officials, and medical professionals must address. To ensure that quality medical care is not harshly impacted, the hospitals and public health leadership, in general, will need to tackle the nursing shortage with solid long-term solutions.
It is no secret that the United States faces a critical nursing shortage, a trend that potentially threatens to undermine quality medical care. One single area of concern does not affect the shortage. In fact, the hospitals, and nursing in particular, are witnessing a combination of problems that range in salary structure, medical economics/cost containment, post-graduate education, and an aging workforce (pending retirements of baby-boomers). The public health industry is not sitting idly by to address the shortage. It is critically reviewing the needs for both existing professions. Definition of Nursing Shortage
Nursing shortage is defined as the inadequate number of qualified nurses to meet the projected demand for nursing care within a healthcare setting, where the demand for nurses is greater than the supply. History of Nursing Shortage
Historical knowledge is important to analyze the present and prepare for the future. As we can see from the current shortage in America today, we learn that it is not a new problem. However what makes this current nursing shortage situation unique is that the causes are related to a multifaceted range of issues. The current nursing shortage is connected to supply and demand factors, demographic changes, population growth, and fewer students enrolling in nursing schools, RNs who are retiring or leaving the workforce and a growth in the baby boom population who will demand more healthcare services in the near future. These factors are occurring while many nurses are retiring and more jobs are being created. In addition, the nursing shortage is actually a worldwide phenomenon with areas like Western Europe, Australia, Canada and the Philippines facing shortages as well.
Economic factors have also contributed to the nursing shortage in the United States. Mark Genovese, spokesperson for the New York State Nurses Association explains, “For many decades the shortage was cyclical but as the economy tightened and as the insurance industry moved to a managed care model, there was less money in the system and hospitals had less money to work with and tighter budgets.”
Budgetary limitations affected the nursing workforce as many nurses began leaving the profession altogether. “They were forcing RNs to do more with less, handle more patients and work more hours. RNs started to leave the workforce because of the working conditions and fewer RNs entered the system,” explains Mark.
Americans are also demanding more quality healthcare services while many RNs are retiring, further exacerbating the problem. The HRSA has stated: "to meet the projected growth in demand for RN services, the U.S. must graduate approximately 90% more nurses from U.S. nursing programs.”
Decreased staffing means that there are fewer nurses to work with patients. This impacts job satisfaction and causes work related stress. In some cases it has led to many nurses leaving the profession altogether. A 2010 study published in Health Services Research found that over 75% of RNs feel that the nursing shortage is a huge problem that affects their quality of work as well as patient care and the amount of time that nurses can spend with individual patients.
Another important factor contributing to a lack of nurses is that there is a shortage of nursing school faculty to train a new generation of nurses in colleges and universities. The AACN's 2008-2009 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing report found that nursing programs in the U.S. did not enroll 49,948 qualified students into their bachelor and...