Is there really cause for concern about current health care and the demand for more nurses?
Yes! We have a nursing care shortage of a magnitude unseen in decades. It is affecting all health care settings – hospitals, nursing homes, home health and outpatient facilities!
Yes! An estimated 126,000 registered nurses are needed to fill current full time vacancies in just the hospital and nursing home sectors alone! By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 400,000 nurses will be needed to meet the demand in all health care facilities.
Yes! Risks to national health from the nursing shortage are highly acute because nursing is not only the nation’s largest health profession but also comprises the largest percentage of hospital labor force and is the primary provider of long term care!
Why is there a nursing shortage?
The current supply of nurses cannot meet the current and future demands for nurses.
Of the nation’s nearly 2 million RNs, about 80% are currently in the workforce, the highest level ever recorded for nursing and the highest for any profession.
However, nurses are aging. In 2000, the average RN was 43.3 years old and only 10% of the workforce was under the age of 30 years.
The physical and psychological demands on nurses in practice settings related to high acuity patients with multiple, complex health problems and staffing shortages have discouraged people from entering or remaining in nursing.
Although nurses are perceived by the public as trustworthy and valuable to the health care system, the work of nurses is often misunderstood and images of nurses portrayed by the media are frequently inaccurate and demeaning.
In the mid-1990′s nursing school enrollments and graduation rates began to decline as the college-age population diminished and rising career opportunities for women in business, medicine, engineering and law forced nursing to compete with other professions for qualified candidates.
At the same time, fewer nurses entered the field of nursing education and current faculty are aging toward retirement. Some nursing schools have been forced to turn away qualified students because of insufficient numbers of faculty to teach them.
Baby boomers are aging and people are living longer. Consequently they will require greater levels of health care as they experience more acute and chronic health problems over a longer period of time.
The nature of health care has changed. Treatment advances, more complicated drug and therapy regimens, and new technologies have helped more people survive a health crisis and live with ongoing health problems. Changing health care delivery and payment systems have resulted in more rapid hospital discharge, increased use of outpatient and home care services, greater demand for long-term care for the elderly, and increased utilization of health promotion and illness prevention programs. All of these require additional professional nurses with expertise to meet the changing needs of patients.
What are the advantages of a four year professional nursing program leading to a BA degree versus a two year technical nursing program leading to an AA degree?
Top nurse executives and administrators believe that compared to technical nurses, baccalaureate prepared nurses:
Have more comprehensive understanding of the nursing process, patient assessment and documentation.
Have broader exposure to concepts of CASE MANAGEMENT and CARE COORDINATION , essentials of continuity of care which is necessary with increased intensity and complexity of patient needs.
Demonstrate better understanding of the LIBERAL ARTS as a basis for nursing.
Have experience in community health which brings insight and resources to continuity of care and the discharge planningprocess.
Have better ORAL, WRITTEN and GROUP COMMUNICATION SKILLS .
Are able to deal with change and conflict in flexible and objective ways.
Are more comfortable involving families in care and defining appropriate parameters for them.
Demonstrate better patient teaching skills in assessing needs and setting priorities in teaching because they have a better understanding of the teaching/learning process.
Relate in a more collaborative manner with other health professionals. They are oriented to an interdisciplinary philosophy .
Have increased ability to THINK CRITICALLY, solve problems and make decisions by being able to see beyond clinical/physical manifestations and to incorporate a more comprehensive and holistic view .
Are aware of underlying concepts of care that can be transferred or modified. They do not rely on ‘rote’ skills but on knowledge bases.
Have more exposure to leadership theory and preparation for SUPERVISION and DELEGATION of care provided by other health team members.
Where can I go to learn more about a career in Nursing?
Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing, offers an online resource – Career Profiles in Nursing – featuring 30 nurses in different career stages and in 15 specialty areas at www.nursingsociety.org/career
Johnson and Johnson sponsors a new web site at www.discovernursing.com containing a searchable database of more than 1,000 nursing education programs and hundreds of scholarships nationwide. In addition, the site profiles dozens of nurses and students and provides descriptions of numerous nursing specialties and career paths.