The USA has been in the midst of a nursing shortage for quite some time, but it’s only set to get worse in the upcoming years. California, Texas and New Jersey are predicted to be among the hardest hit states, but the nursing shortage has the potential to impact the country as a whole.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, high levels of staff nurses lead to optimal patient care and better patient outcomes, while a shortage of nurses can have the opposite effect. Due to this, it’s vital that we understand the reasons behind the American nursing shortage and take action to rectify the situation.
Why Is There a Nursing Shortage in the U.S.?
The ongoing nursing shortage has occurred for a number of reasons. The fact that a variety of causes are contributing to the shortage might be why it’s been so hard for policymakers and healthcare facilities to remedy the situation. To get a better understanding of why the country needs more nurses, take a look at some of the causes of the shortage now:
1. The Country Has an Aging Population
By 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans will be aged 65 or over. As we tend to need more healthcare services as we get older, the demand for in-patient and outpatient treatment will increase. To meet this demand, new healthcare facilities will need to be created and many more nurses will be required. Although the nursing shortage is nothing new, it is becoming more critical with every day that passes. As we begin to experience the impact that an aging population has on healthcare infrastructure, it’s vital that the nursing shortage is rectified if we want to ensure that everyone has access to the medical care and treatment that they need.
2. Healthcare Professionals Are Reaching Retirement Age
An aging population doesn’t just mean there will more patients in upcoming years; it also implies that more doctors and nurses will be retiring. With a larger percentage of the healthcare workforce reaching retirement age, there will be fewer medical professionals working in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices.
Due to this, there will be fewer healthcare workers available at a time when demand is at its highest. To remedy this, it’s essential that we recruit more doctors and nurses now. This will give newly qualified medical professionals the opportunity to gain real-life experience before a significant percentage of the existing workforce retire.
3. Medical Services Are More Affordable
For too long, millions of Americans have struggled to access the healthcare services they need due to limited finances. When high treatment costs or insurance cover prevents people from seeking treatment, demand for consultations and services decreases. However, the Affordable Care Act has ensured that millions more people will be able to take out medical insurance and access the top-quality medical care they deserve.
While this is undoubtedly a positive step forward, it does mean that more people will now be using healthcare facilities. In response, we need more doctors and nurses to provide the extra that’s needed.
4. Reduced College Places for Qualified Applicants
Attracting more people to the profession will be a critical way of remedying the American nursing shortage but many schools are being forced to reject qualified applicants because of limited facilities, budget constraints and reduced faculties.
Nursing associations and colleges are putting pressure on policymakers to increase the level of funding available to schools who can provide training and qualifications to aspiring nurses. In addition to this, making the most of advanced learning methods, such as online programs, means that more people can obtain the qualifications they need to begin or advance their nursing careers.
What Impact Will the Nursing Shortage Have?
Unless adequate solutions are found and implemented, the nursing shortage could have a far-reaching impact. First and foremost, waiting times for treatment may increase and people may be forced to travel further to access the healthcare services they need.
There’s also a risk that the quality of patient care could decline as a limited number of nurses will be required to care for a larger number of patients. Without the support and resources that they need, medical professionals may be at an increased risk of making errors, which could increase the number of incidents attributed to clinical negligence.
Furthermore, existing nurses may experience higher rates of workplace stress and burnout due to the increased pressure and limited amount of support that will be available. As a result, we’ll see a higher rate of staff absence among nurses and competent, compassionate and qualified nurses leaving the profession.
Due to the devastating impact that the nursing shortage will inevitably have, it’s essential that we take action now. By ensuring that we have enough nurses to meet the demand for increased healthcare services, we can maintain high-quality patient care standards and provide hardworking medical professionals with the resources, environment and professional support they need.
How Can We Solve the Nursing Shortage?
The nursing shortage is a complex issue which has been fueled by many factors. As a result, we will need to take a multi-layered approach to solve the crisis. However, there are effective ways you can play a role in solving the nursing shortage, such as:
1. Qualifying as a Nurse
If you’re passionate about helping people and you want to do a job that really matters, nursing could be a top choice. Roles as a Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner are set to grow at an above average rate over the next decade, so you can be confident that there will be plenty of employment opportunities available.
What’s more – qualifying as a nurse could be easier than you think. While places might be limited at some schools, innovative colleges and universities are offering highly respected nursing programs online. When you enroll in an online nursing program with Wilkes, for example, you can choose to accelerate your career with an ABSN qualification, achieve an MSN and become an advanced nurse or even undertake a Doctor of Nursing or PhD in Nursing program.
2. Use Health Tech
Colleges and universities are already using technology to educate the next generation of nurses but there are other ways that health tech can help to mitigate the impact of the nursing shortage. From teleconferences instead of face-to-face consultations to implantable glucose monitoring systems for diabetics, personalized medications and AI-inspired surgeries, healthcare technology is transforming the sector.
By using the latest technology to enhance patients’ well-being and reduce hospital admissions, there will be less pressure on staff. As more consultations, testing, monitoring and treatment can be delivered remotely, the need for in-patient care will be reduced.
However, it isn’t just doctors and nurses who can enhance patient care and outcomes by using health tech. The rise of wearable devices and consumer health monitors makes it easier than ever to optimize your own well-being. By taking a proactive approach to wellness and using reliable devices to monitor your own health, you can play a role in lessening the pressure on the healthcare sector and enhance your own well-being.
3. Take Action Before Symptoms Emerge
Millions of Americans only consult a doctor or nurse when they begin to feel unwell or when they experience symptoms. However, this can lead to unnecessary suffering and late diagnoses. While visiting a doctor or nurse more frequently might seem counterintuitive amidst a shortage of healthcare workers, it could be one of the most effective ways to reduce the need for more complex and labor-intensive healthcare services.
Preventative healthcare is designed to optimize your health and keep you well, which obviously has patient benefits as well as reducing the need for other medical services. When conditions or diseases can be identified at an early stage, less invasive treatment is usually required, and better outcomes are typically observed.
For patients, having regular check-ups and being your own advocate can have a positive impact on your well-being and even prove to be a life-saving decision. At the same time, reducing the need for complex or long-term medical care will ease the pressure on the system and help to minimize the impact of the nursing shortage.
What Does the Future of Nursing Look Like?
There’s no doubt that nursing will continue to be a critical role in society’s infrastructure. If there’s one thing that we can be certain of, it’s that people will always need healthcare services. From treating acute injuries and emergencies and assisting in surgeries to managing chronic conditions, administrating medications and completing diagnostic testing, nurses will continue to play an essential role in everyone’s lives.
It’s for this very reason that we must work together to ensure that the nursing shortage is remedied in a timely manner. At a time when the plight of healthcare workers has been publicized due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more people have been inspired to join the nursing profession, we can solve the ongoing shortage by making it easier for people to qualify as nurses, hiring more nurses in healthcare facilities throughout the country and provide working nurses with the professional support they need to thrive.