The Nursing Shortage In America Today

By some experts’ estimates, there will be a shortage of nearly 350,000 nurses (RNs) by the year 2020. And while this is significantly lower than earlier estimates, this is still not good news. The nursing shortage in the United States is coming right at the time when baby boomers are aging and the extension of the national average life span. Who is going to care for these people when they become older or have health problems? That’s the biggest concern for health care professionals today.

Why are there so few nurses?

The first question that most people have when it comes to the nursing shortage is – why are there so few nurses? It doesn’t seem to be an unpopular profession, so why aren’t more men and women choosing nursing for their career path? There are a number of possible answers.
Lack of funds for education costs
Scheduling difficulties
Overworking of current nurses drives them out of the system
Aging of nurses leads to retirement
Longer life spans of patients, leading to more patients
Health care systems’ reliance on LPNs, MAs, and home health care aides
Educational costs for college are skyrocketing for all majors and professions, making it difficult for anyone to obtain a college education. Many people who consider the nursing field can not afford the classes they need to take and they do not want to take out student loans to cover the costs.

Nursing classes are sometimes scheduled at odd hours of the day. It makes it difficult for those with job and family responsibilities to make their classes.

Some current nurses are quitting their jobs to take on a new career. The lack of nurses means more responsibility for current nurses, which can lead them to feeling burnout and frustrated.

Of course, many current nurses are nearing retirement, which is further creating a shortage in the nursing field.

The longer life spans of patients are leading to more patients than ever, which is also contributing to the shortage of nurses. This is making it very difficult for nurses to keep up with their workload.

And finally, the health care system’s desire to cut costs has led to increased hiring of LPNs and MAs. While these medical professionals are helping to ease the workload, there is still a driving demand for qualified RNs.

What is this doing to our Healthcare System?

To say that the lack of nurses isn’t significantly affecting the health care system is untrue. Since there are fewer nurses, there are a number of effects being felt by patients, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.
Less one on one patient care
More burnt out nurses
Less attention to patient needs
Problems with medication dispensing
More medical errors
Patients are beginning to notice that they aren’t able to have that one on one care that helps them feel more comfortable when they are ill. Nurses have a number of patients to take care of and are often unable to stay with one patient for a long period of time.

What is being done about the problem?

Since the problem is hard to avoid, the next obvious question is – what is being done to help increase the number of nurses? There are several different tactics hat are being implemented:
More scholarships for nursing students
Better scheduling for nursing classes
Lower cost nursing degrees
Hiring bonuses for nurses
Advanced accelerated nursing degree programs
Higher salaries and benefits for new nurses
Though the nursing shortage is much smaller than it used to be due to these efforts to keep bringing in new nursing students, there is still much more to be done.

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