There has long been talk of the impending nursing shortage, but there has been few solid responses of ideas to address it. Not unexpectedly, there is a big difference of opinion among healthcare professionals, especially between doctors and nurses. The only thing that can actually be agreed on is that this nursing short is becoming a top priority.
As baby boomers begin to grow older and retire, there will be a large increase in the need for health care in the United States. Just this spring, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the amount of jobs available in the healthcare industry were already increasing at a higher rate than had been predicted. One out of every five new jobs this year has been in healthcare. In 2011, there were 296,900 new healthcare jobs added, but in February of this year alone, 49,000 jobs were added to hospitals, assisted care facilities, and other healthcare settings. And due to the fact that nurses account for the bulk of the industry, there will need to be a fair amount of RN's registered to fill these positions.
There are many strategies being put into play in an effort to address this issue. The centralized application service for nursing programs, NursingCAS, is being expanded to include graduate nursing programs. NursingCAS was implemented to try to fill all vacant seats in nursing schools, and as over 50,000 spots were recently unfilled in baccalaureate and graduate nursing schools, the expansion is coming at a good time.
The NEED act, standing for Nurse Education, Expansion and Development, has been introduced as a way to give more grants to nursing schools for the growth of the number of faculty and students. One of the main problems in this shortage is the lack of high level faculty. Nursing students were actually turned away from certain schools and programs because there were no instructors to teach them. The bill has not yet been passed.
Many people want to expand the role of nurses to help cover the shortages. In particular, advanced practice nurseries, or APN's, are being scrutinized as a possible solution to the primary care work force shortage. This is quite a debated proposition, with people taking a strong stand on either side. The National Institute for Health Care Reform believes this would be a solid way to expand primary care capacity. The President of the American Medical Association, who happens to also be a doctor, does not think that giving APN's duties beyond their training is any sort of answer. Nothing has been decided on this matter as of yet.
One of the most important ways to address this issue is with outreach to children and students. They will become the future of nursing and, as a whole, need to understand what nursing is and that they are needed. Whatever you blame the nursing shortage on – lack of nursing school faculty, aging RN's, changing population demographics – the fact remains that the issue is growing in importance. What do you think should be done to address the impending nursing shortage?