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The US Nursing Shortage: What Can We Do to Fix This Problem?

The nursing shortage that has existed in the United States for decades is being exacerbated by various internal and external factors. These factors include:

  • Employee burnout
  • Difficult work demands due to administrative stress
  • Hospital shiftwork that can result in decreased family time and missing important personal events

Burnout is not surprising since nurses often work in environments where there is a high level of stress associated with the pace of meeting both patient and doctor demands. Nursing is a noble profession that provides life-saving and life-sustaining services. Typically, nurses spend more time with a patient than doctors, and that time is even greater within a hospital setting. 

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Why Is There a Nursing Shortage?

The demand for nurses is in part due to the baby boomer generation that increasingly needs medical care. In addition, the need for nurses is at an all-time high due to other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Nurse Journal. The COVID-19 pandemic placed a major burden on the entire healthcare system and had a significant impact on nurses, who had to work countless hours of overtime to take care of critically ill patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic placed a major burden on the entire healthcare system and had a significant impact on nurses.

According to the Nurse Journal, staff shortages during the pandemic’s height resulted in unprecedented nurse-to-patient ratios as high as 1-to-14. According to Wolters-Kluwer, the normal nurse-to-patient ratio is one nurse to every four patients. However, there are no federal mandates that provide guidelines on the number of patients that registered nurses can care for simultaneously. 

The Nurse Journal estimates that over a million new nurses are needed in the medical field over the next few years to prevent a critical nursing shortage. This nursing shortage must be avoided because it could affect the health and safety of patients. By the year 2030, the Department of Health and Human Services forecasts that the demand for registered nurses will exceed 3.6 million, according to U.S. News and World Report.

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What Can Be Done to Fix the Nursing Shortage?

Immediate solutions are needed to address the U.S. nursing shortage, and good recruitment strategies are also essential. Recruitment strategies could focus on job opportunities within nursing, and there are many different opportunities within the nursing industry.

Also, competitive compensation packages with benefits such as tuition reimbursement and scholarships to pay for previously earned nursing degrees could be equally effective. If an employer is willing to pay a nursing applicant’s student loans, for instance, that employer may have a competitive advantage in attracting new employees.

Recruitment strategies should also emphasize various nursing roles, such as critical care nurses, med-surgery nurses and cardiac nurses. Prospective nurses should also be informed of the differences between being a licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN) and a nurse-practitioner (NP).

LPNs commonly provide support services to patients such as explaining procedures, while RNs have more patient care responsibilities. For instance, RNs are often tasked with multiple responsibilities, provide direct care to patients and work closely with doctors.

NPs have a more advanced education than RNs. Their responsibilities include prescribing patient treatments, prescribing medications and providing patient treatment plans.

Retaining Nurses

Once nurses are recruited, healthcare providers should provide an engaging and effective work environment. Proper staffing and reasonable hourly shifts are vital for preventing burnout.

Often, the nursing shortage and other staffing shortages seen at some hospitals is due to compensation not equaling job demands. Staff nurses seek other employment, leaving many open positions that hospitals are unable to fill.

Streamlining the required recurring training that nurses go through can also be helpful to reduce burnout. Ideally, healthcare providers should offer work-life balance opportunities for nurses as well as state-of-the-art equipment, adequate staffing and a safe work environment.

Employers Must Work Harder to Mitigate the Nursing Shortage

Nursing has a positive impact in the lives of others, so employers must do more to mitigate the current nursing shortage. This field offers a variety of opportunities to specialize, and there are potential opportunities in nursing around the country. The University offers several degrees and certificates that can help students to acquire valuable healthcare knowledge.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Sadulski is an Associate Professor within our School of Security and Global Studies. He has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at www.Sadulski.com for more information.

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