Nursing Shortage Impact on Healthcare
Department of Nursing; RN-to-BSN Program
November 13, 2012
Nursing Shortage Impact on Healthcare
Dating back to the 1940s, the healthcare industry has realized that there is a need for more nurses. The increased demand for nurses was mainly driven by the casualties of World War II (Mahaffey, 2002). The question of how to address the nursing shortage back then was answered a decade later with the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) (Mahaffey, 2002). Originally, nurses were a product of hospital-based training programs that restricted participation to young, unmarried participants. A shorter path to a nursing degree was made possible by the emergence of junior and community colleges and government funding for nursing education (Mahaffey, 2002). The measures taken to attract more nursing students were successful, and for the time being the nursing shortage was relieved by increased graduation rates. Once the federal dollars ran out, the graduation rates began to fall again and the need to address the nursing shortage returned (Mahaffey, 2002). Today, the scarcity of nurses is fueled by medical advances that lengthen life spans, population explosion, and an increase in the types of medical facilities. There are more people, people are living longer, and there are more healthcare facilities other than hospitals that require a registered nurse (RN) workforce. An emphasis has been put on the delivery of quality patient care due to research and evidence-based practice studies. It has been determined that quality patient care improves patient outcomes and the standard of practice has been elevated to reflect those findings. Maintaining quality nursing care requires the RN to perform tasks in accordance with evidenced-based practice (EBP), to document thoroughly and accurately, to administer medications correctly, and to make ongoing assessments of patient health status during a 12-hour shift. All of these responsibilities take time if they are to be done properly. Population demands have outrun the supply of RNs available to give care. The nursing shortage of today has the potential to result in far more devastating consequences than the shortages of the past. RNs are overworked and overstressed. Sentinel events, an unexpected event that results in serious consequences to health or life, have been found to be directly related to disruptive behavior among nurses due to workload stress (Springer, 2008). Because of stress and a hostile work environment, RNs are leaving the profession for more peaceful pastures. The continuing nursing shortage must be addressed because the quality of patient care will suffer. In order to avoid a nurse shortage crisis, the healthcare industry must find a way to increase the number of young students pursuing a career as a RN and take steps to retain the RNs that are already working in the profession.
Since the millennium, there have been some efforts made to increase the number of young people becoming nurses that have proven to be effective. “Beginning in 2006, the number of younger age people becoming RNs has been increasing dramatically” (Buerhaus, 2012). “The number of full-time-equivalent registered nurses ages 23-26 increased by 62 percent” (Auerbach, Buerhaus, & Staiger, 2011). The Nursing Reinvestment Act of 2002 and a publicity campaign to improve the public’s image of nursing are the most likely reasons for the rise in numbers of young people entering nursing in recent years. The Reinvestment Act was “intended to promote people to enter and remain in nursing careers through scholarships, loan repayments, public service announcements, retention grants, career ladders, and grants for nursing faculty” (Aya Healthcare, 2008). Scholarships and grant monies have enabled a lot of younger applicants to afford nursing school and to receive debt relief through loan...
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