Written by Cherry Ann Vincente, RN
We often read reports and write-ups about the nursing shortage. Regardless of many written articles, the dilemma of decreasing number of registered nurses is still there. Since nurses are the “front-liners” of healthcare, they play the vital role in our healthcare delivery system. If we gradually lose them, it will be a great impact not only on one’s health but also in the country’s welfare.
According to statistics, nursing shortage will rise by 260,000 vacant jobs by 2025 and it is twice as large as any nurse shortage since 1960’s. One of the major factors
of this impending shortage is the aging population of nurses itself. Way back 1980’s, a majority of the nurses are within the age bracket of 20-39. 12 years ago, most of the nurses are within the age bracket of 30-45. As of 2016, 53 percent of working nurses are above 45 years of age. It is pretty obvious that in the next few more years, there are more nurses that are going to retire compared to a number of nurses that are of the middle age group.
Aside from the rising number of nursing retirees by the year 2025, the majority of the country’s population is getting older. And as the population gets older, the demand for health care services ascend. Around 80 percent of the aging population is acquiring chronic diseases which need more manpower for health care services. Remember, there are from the younger population who still needs health care.
Another factor of a forthcoming nursing shortage is the limited schools for nursing. And even though a lot of colleges for nursing that will be opened this year, still, it will take a time to educate and train new health care workers. Maybe, the most critical factor affecting the nursing scarcity in the U.S. is nursing schools’ inability to increase enrollment due to lack of nursing school faculty. Even if registered nurses do gain their entry-level degrees, many facilities are hesitant to hire brand-new nurses because of the experience gap between them and retiring longtime nurses.
Other factors that may contribute to this issue is the career shifting. Some nurses who used to work as a hospital or clinical nurses transfer to a different profession which is not related to nursing. Some nurses leave this profession due to issues regarding salaries, working protection and set-up.
By these factors, most of the states all of the country is affected by the upcoming nursing shortfall. According to the research of Olivet Nazarene University, states with the highest demand for nurses are; New Mexico, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and North Dakota. However, nursing demand is lowest in other states such as Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Data was collected last October 2016.
We have now learned the truths of the nursing shortage. What we need to know now is how can it affect not only the individual but also the country’s welfare.
Apparently, if we lack nurses it may cause understaffing. When there is understaffing, nurses tend to have a lot of workloads and they need to work for long hours. The responsibilities of nurses include paper works. Most of us stayed in the hospital beyond our shift just to complete all the required documentations. They are assigned to several patients during their shift. It can be a stressful working environment to them. If nurses are stressed, they can get sick and exhausted. Thus, some of them force to leave their job. In my experience, when we don’t have enough numbers of nurses on-duty for a particular shift, we are required to maximize our time so we are able to manage to handle a lot of patients. Some medications were not given exactly on time and the therapeutic interaction with our patients lessen. We are unable to do our thorough nursing assessment to some of our patients as we have to reserve our time for other critically ill patients that need our attention. We can’t give our 100% nursing care for each of our patients. As a nurse, it doesn’t feel good at all.
When lack of nurses on duty, the nurses may feel burn-out. And if they do, they are prone to commit mistakes which may harm them or their patients. The quality of health care is at stake. The common example of nurse’s error that we always hear is the medication errors. Many nurses commit it because of a short time to analyze the doctor’s order. It is because the nurse has a lot of patients to tend in her whole shift. Most of the time, the nurses are unable to carry out doctor’s orders correctly due to exhaustion and no meals or breaks taken. So, when the quality of care suffers, the recovery period of the patient may prolong. This may lead to a lack of vacant rooms for patients that need to be admitted. More people may get sick. Hence, the mortality rate may increase. The mortality rate is another concern of the country that needs to be addressed as it may proceed to an economic crisis. It is like a chain reaction. The diagram shown below is an example how great will be the impact if the nursing shortage will not be addressed a few more years from now.
We need to recruit more nurses than we can ever imagine. Just thinking the scenario of 1 nurse for 10 – 15 patients (without a nursing assistant) is something that is very disturbing. In fact, this scenario is already happening in some countries that are lack of nurses.
On a brighter side, there are some strategies that are currently being implemented to prevent the impending nursing scarcity. One of the approaches is to offer nursing schools with lower tuition fee. Moreover, it is recommended for the employers to hire not only the experienced nurses but also the young or fresh nurses. We know for a fact that is much easier to hire experienced nurse than the inexperienced one. However, young nurses nowadays are more aggressive in terms of skills development. They just not focus on what they have already learned but what they can learn more so that they can perform their duties well. Also, young nurses are very much willing to contribute something for their community. They want to step up. They are energetic, which what is really needed especially if they need to maximize their time and doing multi-tasking. Their training is much modernized than the older generation.
Nurses should be considered always as a V.I.P.’s (Very Important Persons). What they do are very crucial to all of us. The nursing shortage is frightening. You may ask yourself, “What are we going to do without them?”
About the author
Cherry Ann A. Vicente was born and raised in Laguna, Philippines. The eldest among her four siblings took up Bachelor of Science in Nursing and became a Registered Nurse in 2009. She was an active volunteer of Philippine Red Cross, an organization which is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. After a year of doing charity works, she started to work in a primary hospital as an Emergency and Staff nurse. A small but terrible one, she used to assist geriatric, pediatric and post-operative patients where most of them are classified as critically-ill patients. She was working in the hospital for almost two years when she got pregnant with his only child. Then she stopped working for a while and focus on taking care of her child.
Currently, she is a freelance writer and a full-time Quality Analyst for an insurance company. Her passion for serving others continue as she signed up in Philippine Red Cross and became a blood donor. She uses her writing talent to widen the awareness of the society regarding the value of Nurses. She may not be working in the hospital now, but by assisting others to their health care concerns, she is still practicing not only her profession but also her vocation to save lives.