I believe the greatest challenge facing the field of nursing today is the nursing shortage in the hospitals that leads to increased nursing workloads. Nurse deficit threatens the safety of patients and the nation’s health as a whole. One of the first articles concerning nursing shortage was published in 1965 by Superintendent of Chicago Wesley Memorial Hospital Kenath Hartman. One of the latest articles that just was published in May 2015 by Alexandra Robbins “We need more nurses” describes the absence of a larger nursing workforce. What causes the nursing shortage in the United States to be such a consistent problem in health care for half a century?
As this problem does not improve, there are studies, research, and projects performed to analyze and estimate the figures of the shortage between now and 2030. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are about 2.7 million registered nurses working in the United States. The survey performed in 2010 by the government revealed that nearly half a million registered nurses do not work in the field. The work is very challenging and difficult enough that a large percentage of nurses leave their job at some point of their career.
Another problem that causes the shortage is education and training. Nursing programs are rigorous. Students who are ready to commit face a limited number of seats in the program due to shortage of teachers. Nurses with Master’s Degrees who are qualified to teach can double their income by working as nurses. In 2004, just in one small community college where I first applied to pursue an Associate Degree in nursing, 250 applicants were turned away because there were not enough teachers and other resources for them. 45 students out of 300 applicants were selected for the program and only 27 students graduated in 2006 with an Associate Degree in nursing. Therefore, just in this example where I was one of the students, only 10% of applicants were able to obtain a nursing degree.
The next interesting fact is that when the economy in the United States was in a recession (December 2007 – July 2009) and nearly 8 million jobs were lost, the employment of registered nurses in the hospitals showed its biggest gain. I personally know several nurses that rejoined their nursing career due to the economy recession. For example, one of them was a real estate agent and was not able to provide for the family during the recession.
The list of factors that cause the nursing shortage goes on extensively. It is important for health care system is to find ways to attract and train more nurses. George Washington University is one of the universities that offers an excellent streamlined Bachelor’s in Nursing program. The program allows students who already hold bachelor’s degree in another field obtain a nursing degree in about 15 months. This is a great step forward to unblock the educational bottleneck. I also believe that hiring more nursing assistants and reducing their patient-tech ratio is a tremendous help for bedside nurses as they would get more help with personal care activities. This will retain more bedside nurses, decrease nursing overwhelming shifts, and increase patient satisfaction.
The nursing shortage is the greatest challenge in the field of nursing because it makes nursing care stressful, overwhelming and compromises the quality of care.