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Nursing Shortage

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Nursing Shortage In The United States

By the year 2015, the United States will be facing a nursing shortage that will affect every state. As of April, 2006, the number of vacant positions for RN’s was 114,000 and growing. Why is there a growing shortage of nurses in the United States? These are some of the answers that can be used to explain this urgent problem:

  • Colleges and universities have not expanded their nursing programs fast enough.
  • The ‘baby boomer’ population of the United States is getting older and will soon be in need of additional nursing care.
  • The average age of a nurse is 45; which means that many will be retiring by 2011.
  • Nurses are still not paid enough for what they do, which has forced some to leave the profession in search of other careers.

Why do these reasons exist?

While these reasons for a nursing shortage are justified, they should be looked at closely in order to find resolution.


Unfortunately, many college and university programs do not have enough money to pay for new equipment that is used to train nurses. As a result, they have had to cut down on the number of students that can enroll each year in order to pay for lab equipment and other training devices. This means fewer people will graduate with degrees in nursing.


While no one can control the growth of a population, ‘baby boomers’ are expected to live longer, which means they will need nurses to take care of them. This will put a strain on the number of nurses that will be available to other patients.


Since nursing is a physically demanding career, many nurses cannot work once they reach their sixties. They will have to retire once they are eligible. While some may still be able to work, they will not be able to lift patients, move patients, or assist in operating rooms.


Even though there are younger people entering the nursing field, many feel they are not being paid enough to work double shifts or weekend shifts. The shortage has caused nurses that remain to take care of more people than they can, which adds to the stress they feel each day. Nurses are also being given more tasks that take longer to complete.


Impact of the Nursing Shortage

The impact felt by the nursing shortage goes beyond vacant positions. Without adequate nursing care, the number of patients who die each year is rising. According to the 2004 National Survey on Consumers’ Experiences with Patient Safety and Quality Information, 40% of Americans feel that the quality of care they receive in hospitals has become worse over the past five years.


Many in the nursing field will agree that they simply do not have the time to care for their patients the way they should. A study by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health care Organizations confirms this by reporting that after visiting 1609 hospitals and looking at records from as far back as 1996, it was concluded that 24% of the patient deaths were due to an insufficient amount of nurses on the floor.

In addition to patient fatalities rising, many emergency rooms at local hospitals have been forced to close due to nursing shortages.


Ways to fix the Nursing Shortage

Many states including Pennsylvania and Illinois are determined to end this nursing shortage by offering colleges and universities incentives to update their nursing programs, and to provide new and returning nursing students grants and scholarships to finish their education. Colleges and universities are also seeking help from the health care field. Health insurance companies, research societies, and other private and public organizations are making donations to help colleges afford new equipment and space to allow more students to enroll in nursing programs.


The Nurse Reinvestment Act, which was passed in 2002, requires that enough money be spent by congress each year in the form of grants to organizations and schools that will help increase student enrollment.


Travel nursing is an area of nursing that has become more popular as the nursing shortage increases. Nurses apply for positions with companies that will place them in different cities that are in need of nurses. Most positions are temporary, but in many cases, include free housing, moving expenses, health insurance, and more. This is a short-term solution, but one that can help ease shortages in areas that need it the most.


The struggle continues as more and more people are finding other career paths to choose. By the year 2014, 1.3 million nursing positions will need to be filled in order to meet the demand. As of now, it is projected that there will not be enough nurses to fill these positions.

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This page was last modified on 18 January 2007, at 22:14. - This page has been accessed 9,433 times. - Disclaimers - About Nursing Career